Friday, April 13, 2007

The Collector Collector

I don't know why Tibor Fischer's The Collector Collector ended up in a list of dystopic literature, and I don't know why I added it to things I wanted from the Interlibrary Loan system, particularly given that some of the reviews I read noted it was smut (but hey, I'm watching Shortbus, and that's pretty much porn - although I'm more offended that RottenTomatoes lists it, but won't let you find it in a search), but sometimes the stars align and you end up reading something that's just wonderful that you might never otherwise have picked up, especially given it has a woman's legs in a pot on the cover, which is sort of offensive.

The reviews are correct in that the story is not particularly linear or well flushed out. It's simply not even close to the best narrative I've ever read. But I didn't care, because Fischer's writing is wonderful, and some of the individual bits are top notch: Christopher Moore-ian, and then some. I bet Moore wishes he had a book narrated by a pot capable of changing it's shape to be any other pot, vase, pitcher - the pot lists like 50 different variations on thing you put something else in - that holds a grudge against posers. I appreciate an author who doesn't go back, 100 pages later, to explain why something is included in the text, but lets you remember what is so funny about the situation based on what's already been revealed. That's trusting in the ability of what you wrote to stick in someone's memory, and it's trusting in your reader.

I'll quote two bits. The first one I liked because I think it's a perfect description of the stupid white-elephant sleeping Mexican in a sombrero ashtray that gets passed around at my in-law's Christmas every year. This is the pot speaking (p. 36):

"I am placed next to a velvet giraffe carrying almost as much life as a real giraffe, a helter-skelter of mechanical penguins that don't work, and a ceramic badger wearing cricket flannels. This is a unique artifact. It cannot have been owned by anyone. It is unownable, it is constantly in search of appreciation, appreciation it will not get. To look on it is to despair. It is a pariah, passed from hand to hand, though oddly enough not to a bin. Made to be rejected. It will have been left here, not bought."

And this one is mildly offensive and needs some set up. The pot is telling a story about a mad priest and a captain sailing for Cathay (this isn't even the funniest bit - the exchanges between the captain and the cook are overboard - literally). Sometime during the trip the priest develops the ability to paint the ocean as it will be the next day. Except better, because he makes his clouds more realistic than God. The captain is not as impressed as the amazed crew and responds to the mad priest (Lucas) with this (p. 191):

"I went to an old wise woman in Portugal who was blind and toothless but who'd suck you and tell you your fortune. She was famed for her accuracy," the Captain reminisced.

"What did she say, 'Mmmmmggg, mmgghhh, mmmmbbb-gggg'?" suggested Lucas.

"No, she told me my fortune afterward."

"So what did she say?"

"I don't know. I don't speak Portuguese. I did get something about going on a long voyage."


MeanMrMustard said...

As for "Christopher Moore-ian, and then some" works featuring inanimate objects as major characters, I'm not sure you can beat Tom Robbins' "Skinny Legs and All". Though you're welcome to try.

MeanMrMustard said...

Oh, and Blogger comments (without a trace of visible irony) ate my first comment, which pointed out that Haloscan comments have offered RSS comment feeds from the day I started blogging. Here's my feed.

MeanMrMustard said...

Doi. I was wrong; Blogger actually put my comment on the correct post, instead of this one.

I'll go back to doing something important now.