Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirlees

And once again, I have Neil Gaiman to thank for some charming fantasy reading.  First Martin Millar (darling Martin Millar! My only, only regret about my recent abandonment of graduate school is that I can now no longer use the university’s interlibrary loan system to acquire for myself the rest of Martin Millar’s out-of-print books), and now Lud-in-the-Mist, to which, I have to say, I believe Stardust owes a hefty debt.  I’m always so pleased when I discover that Neil Gaiman has stolen his ideas or plots, mainly because the man is about ten thousand times more weirdly creative than any normal person needs to be, and I’m very envious, and I feel better about myself when I notice that he does the same thing I do – and everyone does, but since I admire Neil Gaiman so much as a writer it’s especially validating to see it in him – of swiping excellent ideas from other people’s books.

Lud-in-the-Mist is about a town called Lud-in-the-Mist in the fictional country of Dorimare, which borders on the realms of Faerie but legally denies the existence of these realms.  Everyone hates fairy things, because of the Law, and they’re not allowed to eat fairy fruit or talk about fairy things, and they definitely don’t ever go into the wicked fairy realms.  Such things got banished.  But then the Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist discovers that his son’s acting all crazy, and then more and more crazy (fairy-fruit related) things keep happening, and everything descends into chaos.  And it seems that this shady character called Endymion Leer is behind it all.

I love the names in this book!  They’re all Endymion Leer and Nathaniel Chanticleer and Mumchance and Portunus.  And the book itself is delightful – it’s funny in places and haunting in places, and Hope Mirlees has an excellent turn of phrase.  I wrote down almost as many bits of Lud-in-the-Mist in my commonplace book as I did of The Napoleon of Notting-Hill lo these many years ago (why is G.K. Chesterton so crazy awesome?).

Yummy.  Read it.

(I am coming to the end of my commonplace book, which makes me sad.  My eighth-grade English teacher gave me it after our school’s big anthology won a prize at English Day (I was its editor), and since I’m not a big writer-in-journals, I didn’t use it for ages, and I felt way guilty about it because my eighth-grade English teacher was so, so nice to me.  And then one day during a Shakespeare unit in one of my high school English classes, I went home and wrote down that line from Romeo and Juliet – “And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now” – which made tim sneer, sneery tim, but which I completely love – and the rest is history.  I’ll be sad to get another commonplace book when I’ve been with this one so long.)

Oh, I forgot to say – my one complaint about Lud-in-the-Mist was that it was a wee bit on the sexist side.  More than a wee bit.  None of the female characters are very realized – it’s a fairy tale, so the characters aren’t meant to be incredibly vivid, but the women never do anything but react to what their menfolk are doing.  Plus the main character, Nathaniel Chanticleer?  His daughter disappears into the fairy realm early on in the book, but he hardly even mentions that; when his son gets taken into the realm of fairy he’s like I WILL GO AND FIND HIM AND WILL NOT RETURN UNLESS I RETURN WITH MY BELOVED DEAREST SON.  He happens to rescue his daughter along the way, but I swear he doesn’t even notice because he’s so hell-bent on rescuing his son.  Lame.

Otherwise, good!  Thanks, Neil Gaiman – it saw me through some of the endless days I have to survive before I get to read The Graveyard Book.  (Next up on my distractions-until-The-Graveyard-Book: The Red House Mystery.  If I read it very slowly on purpose and take lots of breaks to cross-stitch and write my stories, that and whatever else I’m rereading – eyeing The Book Thief but not sure I’m up for the emotional commitment – should get me through until Chalice is released next week, and then it’ll only be another fortnight before The Graveyard Book.

Other views:

Darla at Books & Other Thoughts
Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf
Brief remarks by Neil Gaiman
Michael Dirda’s essay on it, which I really like