Once at the bottom you can only start digging
Run here and there between one restaurant and another, draw the menus, the printer is jammed and 210 wine cards have to be cut by hand for a Mega Dinner with various Mega Galactic Presidents that will be held from here to three hours, from Spain they call you at criminal hours for the 2020 spring ingredients list («Not to rush you but we need it exactly now»), and then there are no archive photos of the 2001 Christmas menu, did archives even exist in 2001? Boss, we have to contact the designer for the new restaurant, she’s been waiting since mid-December, and those who sell us the wine are begging me on their knees to let them know what we want to do with that shipment of those five-thousand-bottles.
When asked what kind of books I usually read, I like to stick my chest out like those sea birds that inflate the throat pouch and look like huge hot water bottles. With a smile of superiority from the top of my Smurf-like height, I bask in self-celebration stating that I sacrificed myself to Goddess Literature, I usually take tea chatting with Proust and get lost in discourses of a certain level with uncle Fyodor. Which is not completely false, but in the same way in which each of us does anything to hide their skeletons in the closet, I also try very hard to silence mine as much as possible.
It happened some time ago – it’s always “some time ago” until you realize that ten years have passed –, I said, it happened some time ago that, bent under the weight of an incalculable number of exams in just one session, I decided in a rare moment of respite to throw the various Michel Foucault out of the window and take a break. I deserved to read something lighter, that had nothing to do with sociology or feudal Japan. At the bottom of my stomach, I felt the urge to read a something very close to a poorly written book for teenagers, so I obviously bought one. Needless to say, as soon as I finished it, it flew out the window following in its fall the impossible Pierre Bourdieu, but in those hours when I dedicated myself to it, it gave me some sort of satisfaction.
(I will never ever say which book I bought: my skeletons remain safe
inside the closet, be content to see them only up to the metacarpal)
The same situation recreated a few weeks ago, when after some weeks studded with many infernal little things, while in a taxi heading to a Mega Dinner of Mega Galactic Presidents I remembered that I did not even have a corkscrew in my pocket. In my case, not having a corkscrew is like leaving the house without trousers and only realizing it when the people around you start giggling. So I realized I wanted to sink into some consolation book that would take me back to the best years: I desperately needed to read a fantasy. I grew up on bread and Frodo Baggins, and I’m one of those people who would gladly put a cape on their shoulders to play Dungeons & Dragons. Saving you the darkest details, while at university I used to play online in a PbC (play by chat): I created a character, whom I moved in a world built à la Lord of the Rings describing every single action in texts as long as the Bible (for the uninitiated: it works just like that. To shoot an arrow you must describe every movement of muscles, tendons, and hair).
That game was a gold mine: I had a lot of fun, and at the same time it was a continuous exercise in writing, precise in the most insignificant details, but bright, and rewarding. That kind of game requires a certain style of writing, a little high-sounding and – can you imagine it? –, actually quite absurd. I remember that once, instead of “he ran his left hand through his hair” another player wrote “he brushed his sunshine-like glimmering hair with the left”, and laughing to tears I realized how stupid a text like this could sound.
Anyway, I recently found the files with all the games I played, and the things I wrote, and I was surprised to see how I was objectively good. Now it feels as if my brain has withered, and even if I neither want nor need to reach the levels of the sunshine-like glimmering hair, it was strange to realize how nine years ago I was able to write in such an exciting way. Regardless of the affection I have for that character, whom is still so dear to me, and the warm memory that binds me to the game and to all the other players.
The corkscrew episode therefore made me long to go back to the Middle Ages, and by extension back to fantasy. I drank The Pillars of the Earth in one sip for the second time, but I was thirsty for something new. Living in Japan with the perspective of moving to Europe soon does not allow me to buy big fat paper printed books, so I took a look at the eBook showcase, and I regret it so much. This time it is not me the one who has to hide the skeletons: I did not dare to buy anything, seeing all the garbage around. In the ranking of the most appreciated books there are boastful abominations which freely copy Fifty Shades, which is already an insult itself. The offers in the fantasy genre do not differ much, given that the so-proclaimed bestseller has a naked male torso on the cover, and recalls something that cannot be defined better than as a story of zoophilia.
(They could at least have the decency not to erase the nipples of that poor torso on the cover)
Writing fantasy is not taking a loser kid in a hypothetical parallel Middle Ages, making him find a miraculous stone and suddenly he becomes the acclaimed hero of fifteen books. It is not even writing a love story between a human being and a werewolf, and giving them weird names to make the whole ensemble more credible (what should actually be credible?). Tolkien is Tolkien for something: if I forget the corkscrew at home, I want to read pages on pages of descriptions of the traditional songs of that elven tribe who live in that limited quarter of the valley in the dark meander south of the river. Can we ever go lower than that, now that the editorial market blissfully gravitates around soft porn for teenagers, in all its sauces?