Even in a hot air balloon he continues to be sleepy

So, last week my poor foxes looked so vulnerable that I thought (or at least one of them – the other, and thus the other half of my personality, is still taking a nap) they should be offered at least some adventure in recompense for their frightening-to-the-point-of-soporific sense of anticipation. Hot air balloons seem uniquely adventuresome to me, and not just because of Lee Scoresby in the His Dark Materials trilogy – it’s something emotional. A similar impulse appears throughout a lot of sci-fi, wherein alternative realities are marked by the presence of dirigibles. (The example I’m thinking of is Fringe, but I know there have been recent others. In fact, His Dark Materials actually has dirigibles too.)

I’ve been feeling particularly escapist this week, imagining alternative timelines and personalities while simultaneously shirking most of the writing and edits I need/want to do. Instead I’ve been reading: Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell; My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, edited by Kate Bernheimer; and a novel called Boy Heaven by poet Laura Kasischke which is billed as Young Adult but deploys such gorgeous imagery and demonstrates such smart choices of framing and voice that I think if it had been published by a small indie press and billed as a novella it could easily have become an alt darling. Perhaps not, because it features teenagers? I’m sure it was more lucrative as YA (and I don’t say that as some kind of accusation to Kasischke, but just an assertion of probable fact) but I do lament the idea (or again, assertion) that more people in the lit world would have read it else. Well, she is a poet and teaches at Michigan; she’s probably doing alright, credibility-wise.

Notice the reading trend: Matt Bell’s book is about childrearing in various post-apocalyptic realities; Bernheimer’s collection is a series of contemporarily-conceived fairy tales; Kasischke’s book is nestled in a frame of ghost stories and uncanny fear. Er, that actually sounds darker than I intended: my point is not that I’m on the brink of of psychological Armageddon, but rather that I keep tilting towards the speculative, the lilting, the fearful hardscrabble from atrocity to equilibrium. It all makes my own striving and planning feel a little closer to my fingertips, even if that is only an illusion.

(Metaphor doesn’t make our lives easier, it just helps us understand them better. Discuss.)