Most mornings I open my eyes sad or angry, my body glued to the bed by an ant colony of pinching, naggingly existential concerns. Not a drop of sleep. Long gone are the days of going to bed hungry and waking up cold on the floor, but I’m still too often unconvinced that happiness is a possibility. In the back of my mind I just know for some reason that every positive gesture a human being has ever extended to me was either to make themselves feel better, or to conform to societal demands of politeness. I think repeatedly that most of what I’ve spent my time on: interpersonal relationships, school, work, running, writing, and especially therapy, are complete wastes and will continue to be so. A bunch of bets I keep placing and losing; I’m like my grandfather with those daily scratch offs. Nothing that used to be fun is enjoyable anymore and I’m always in search of that next external thing that will lead to a breakthrough, knowing damn well that’s not how this works. But I search anyway.
Basically, I’m Quentin Coldwater, but I’ll get back to that.
Nothing is continuously enjoyable that is, except for reading. Reading is the only thing that, through all the tedium and frustration, sleeplessness and suicidal thoughts, that I can depend on. When I was a kid we only had one book in that damn house, ever. It was Vampire Junction, S.P. Somtow’s book about Timmy Valentine, the vampire rockstar. My desire to be him might have morphed indirectly into my obsession with vampires in general. As a kid I’d never read much that wasn’t in a video game (I still remember nearly everything Navi said and Link’s non-talking ass didn’t) and though I never forgot Somtow’s book, I realize now that my love for it was linked primarily to its presence and provisional escapism. Had someone quizzed me about it using any manner of theoretical perspective I’d have been like, Yea, Timmy Valentine is cool as shit, right? I’m frustrated now though when shit like that is the peak of a book conversation in a graduate English course, but that’s a whole other issue.
After reading Somtow’s “The Pavilion of Frozen Women,” anthologized in Mothership, I realize I need to go back and read Vampire Junction as a writer. A privilege made possible by Aisha getting me a signed copy (thanks again for that) after my first short story publication. Anyways, all that is to say that yes, I’m basically Quentin Coldwater.
The same way he escaped into the Fillory books as a kid, I did with appropriately darker, gore filled novel of Somtow’s (probably explains a lot).
For three, four-hundred page novels Quentin Coldwater scours the external world–in search of this ambiguous thing, this shifting target, that could potentially make him happy–while trampling over the souls of other people’s conceptually less important desires.
I may as well have invented that.
A stand out intellectually before college, Quentin never really stresses his brain until he gets to Brakebills, which in itself is supposed to be one of those self-actualizing end-all be alls.
Quentin discovers this world he’s always dreamed of and has this super smart, perceptive, caring, nerdy, beautiful girlfriend who’d do anything for him (two of those external thingies), so he cheats on her and then literally gets her killed in said world.
Several times this has happened to me.
Quentin catches the elusive Questing Beast to grant him three wishes. It doesn’t have any of the answers, nor the ability to give him what he really wants so he says fuck it and just wishes to leave Fillory altogether.
Yup, a born quitter.
The older Quentin is more introspective and slows down a little, wants to make up for past wrongs. He hangs out with Plum and doesn’t fuck her even though everyone thinks he did because that’s the kind of dude he was (still, he acts like that). Now, instead of searching for this thing to fill the gaping hole in his heart and mind, he decides to build his own world and fails miserably.
I’m working on a novel…
Quentin essentially stalks, but refuses to confront the woman he loves head on until he takes Plums advice to do so. He succeeds in turning Alice human again, but she’s furious because she didn’t want to be. He just assumed so for seven years. Instead of acknowledging what she wanted, he insists that she’ll be grateful at some point and sticks with the assumption that he knows better for her than she does.
Done it a million times.
Eventually, Quentin saves the magical world that forced him out, that literally made him kill his hero, that killed Alice and that took Penny’s hands and a chunk of his shoulder. He does it for its own sake, because it’s right, expecting nothing in return. In fact, he opts to leave Fillory behind and return home to try building his own world again. There, he soberly accepts Alice for who she is, or who she wants to be and makes no assumptions about her subject position in reference to his. They build the new world together, and not only does it work, but the door he opens is a sprawling and lush landscape linked to the one he’s always known and loved since he was a child.
This last part is damn tricky.