Continuing our theme from last week, I am listening to The Magicians series by Lev Grossman (superbly narrated by Mark Bramhall). Here's the pitch for the first book: Quentin Coldwater has never quite grown out of his childhood favourite fantasy series. And then one day he slips from our world into another, is admitted to a college of magic, and starts down that "extraordinary" path—full of wonder and danger. I'm now onto the next book, The Magician King and oooh, things are getting more deliciously complex.
This series explicitly references other major fantasy worlds, from C.S. Lewis's Narnia to Tolkien's Middle Earth. Quentin flips back and forth between our real world and several magical worlds—some in their own realm, and some which exist right beneath our noses here on Earth. The tension that arises from navigating between them is one of the most interesting parts of the story. As is that quest for meaning that Pippin was after; Quentin, like Pippin, has been looking for purpose in a lot of places, but nothing quite satisfies...
There is, however, a forward momentum to both their actions. No matter what happens, they keep making choices.
Have you seen that Langston Hughes poem going around?
I’m so tired of waiting
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
I think I'd seen it fleetingly on Tumblr, somewhere in the endless scroll. But this week, in Electric Literature, Jasmine Harris pointed out that those words are only the first half of the poem.
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two—
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.
The world, in 2020, is tired. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we are in the middle of environmental crisis, we are in the middle of a ceaseless information stream that we are not built to process.
I remember discovering, when I was a teenager, that if you said, "I'm tired," people would leave you alone. Often, it was partly true, and unlike trying to put the pain of your soul into words ("I'm sad," "I don't see the point of anything," "I wish I didn't exist") it rarely prompted follow-up questions.
Nowadays, I try to be more honest with friends and family—even coworkers sometimes. "Tired" is still a good deflection, but these days I try only to use it when I am genuinely tired.
What does tired really mean, though? The word cloud has so many synonyms and they all feel distinct.
tired weary exhausted fatigued sleepy enervated worn run-down exasperated spent drowsy
Weary is a favourite of mine. There's a weight to it. Sometimes, on the sidewalk or in the stairwell, my weariness settles on me all at once. I stop. I feel like crying, or actually do. And then some voice in my head urges me to keep moving.
It's always me, but me in the guise of someone else. I think, in Whizzer's voice, "Move the pawn. Move the pawn." I think, in the voice of someone who loves me more than I love me at that moment, "You have to keep moving, babe. Come on. You got this." I think, in the the voice of Sally Bowles, "One must keep mobile, mustn't one?"
And I move, despite my own voice in my head, which protests, "I can't. I can't."
But I do.
I'm so wired, but still so tired
Think I'll sleep in my clothes on the floor And maybe this mattress
Will spin on its axis And find me on yours...
– John Mayer, Edge of Desire (Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Aug 22 2010)
This is my favourite performance of this song.
Other times, it is late at night and I am numb. I put my headphones in, turn the music up too loud, and move my body. This week I went for a walk just after sunset listening to the Jump In soundtrack (classic DCOM). Aside from having a little too much sugar, there wasn't a good reason for me to feel so wired. I bounced along in time to the music, tapping and flicking my hands. Fidgeting.
After an hour, I got home and still had the energy to run through my evening routine: brush my teeth, wash my face, put my hair up, feed the cats, lay out tomorrow's clothes. Struggle to sleep.
Inertia can mean inactivity, or it can mean the tendency of a thing to resist change: an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays at rest. It's just as hard to settle down once I'm agitated as it is to rouse myself when I am weary.
The Doctor Who episodes I rewatch most are those from the Russell T. Davies era, the first four series of the new Who. I think the storytelling is top notch, the characters memorable. For a Buffy fan like myself, it's got the same thrills and heartstring-tugging. The same...earnestness. Wrapped in a layer of sci-fi nonsense and sarcasm, because that's fun.
I've just rewatched "The Runaway Bride," the Christmas episode between series 2 and 3 where we first meet Donna Noble. I can't watch this episode as a first-time viewer would, not knowing Donna, but I still think anyone would be charmed by Catherine Tate's performance. Donna can be annoying and shrill, but also compassionate and brave. She sees the change in the Doctor when he talks about the friend he lost. When her wedding reception is attacked, she is concerned first about the people who are hurt, while he is already off worrying about grander things. And when the villain of the episode threatens his life, she steps in front of him to defend him.
It can seem like companions are on a roller coaster ride they can't get off, but in fact, they have to keep making choices. To follow, to stay, to help people.
DOCTOR: And you. So, what will you do with yourself now?
DONNA: Not getting married, for starters. And I'm not going to temp anymore. I don't know. Travel. See a bit more of planet Earth. Walk in the dust. Just go out there and do something.
– ali ♆
postscript: Justin McElroy (the CBC Vancouver municipal affairs reporter, not the MBMBAM guy) has spent the past year collecting the pins for every municipality in British Columbia, and he's finally got them all! Congratulations on completing your quest, Justin.