What a crummy day. My keyboard short-circuited, no doubt because the accumulation of gunk I’ve let fall into it over the past while, and then I got one of those mastercard bills that couldn’t possibly add up to the kajillion dollars listed as the bottom line, only with their devilish powers over arithmetic they’ve made it do so. On top of the bazillion I paid the Canadian government yesterday to cover my tax bill for the last four years, and the triphillion I’ll owe my fancy accountant for translating my IRS forms into Receiver General forms, I’m entering the realms of middle class poverty. And my computer’s in the shop.
So I spent the afternoon reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Not a hell of a lot to lift the spirits there! If I admit that I’m utterly engrossed by the series, will you forgive me if I say I don’t really like it? At any rate I’m sure you won’t be surprised. The first problem with Sandman is that Gaiman, who knows his stuff, has thrown together every powerful trope he can lay his hands on — from Hesiod, Homer, the Bible, the tragedians, fairy tales, Shakespeare, Freud, the works — with no regard for context. (Oh, it’s postmodern you say? I’ll give you postmodern!) Because his raw material is gold, his stories have a lot of power, but the thing he’s made of his gold is second-rate, jejune, silly. You don’t notice it’s silly because the raw stuff is so good — and also for another reason, flaw #2, which is that everything Gaiman touches, he corrupts. His Eros is heartless temptation, his “realm of faerie” is decadent, and his favourite dreams are nightmares. This deceives a reader into thinking there’s weight where there’s not; it fascinates, but it also lends an ersatz significance. It’s true that there are virtues here, but they are the standard virtues of YA lit — loyalty and sacrifice — rather than those available to Gaiman from his sources. There is no beauty here that is not sexy, no wisdom that is not the knowledge of the crappiness of the world, no song that is high and clear and fine. I don’t think it’s healthy for teenagers to meet these mythological tropes for the first time in this degenerate form.
I haven’t decided whether to sink deeper into the pit or not. The Flav is back on TV, and if worse comes to worse I can always borrow Z’s computer (on which I type at this very moment) and stalk my friends with google maps street view. On a brighter note, my friend BB introduced me on a recent visit to Chateau de Chantre Bourgogne-Chardonnay. There have been, in my life, a number of very good, affordable reds but very few good, affordable whites, and I am glad of this one.