Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Worlds Where You’d Like to Live (Or Visit)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 29: Bookish Worlds I’d Want to/Never Want to Live In

I decided to go with worlds I’d actually want to live in, since places, where I wouldn’t want to live, seems a bit too easy. Pretty much any dystopia qualifies (and a few are uncomfortably similar to the world I actually live in…) These all have drawbacks of course, but I could be happy in most of these places. Granted, I’d rather visit most of them, than live there.

51-eyayn0ol-_ac_us218_1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern-

“They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars… When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.”

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_2. Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“I don’t know if you have ever seem a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.”

41fxwtlwool-_ac_us218_3. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum– Note that I said Baum’s Oz, not Gregory Maguire’s!

“The cyclone had set the house down gently, very gently – for a cyclone—in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of green sward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.”

4. Prince Edward Island in most of LM Montgomery’s work.

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

Anne of Green Gables

“It was a lovely afternoon – such an afternoon as only September can produce when summer has stolen back for one more day of dream and glamour.”

-Emily Climbs

“But now she loved winter. Winter was beautiful “up back” – almost intolerably beautiful. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour – the purest vintage of winter’s wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite winter sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice all over the windows of the Blue Castle. Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings – torn, twisted, fantastic shadows. Great silences, austere and searching. Jewelled, barbaric hills. The sun suddenly breaking through grey clouds over long, white Mistawis. Ice-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cosy living-room, with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats, seemed cosier than ever. Every hour brought a new revalation and wonder.”

The Blue Castle

51iswycraxl-_ac_us218_5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

“She stood for a moment looking out at a slowly moving view of the hills, watching heather slide past underneath the door, feeling the wind blow her wispy hair, and listening to the rumble and grind of the big black stones as the castle moved.”

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_6. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling -Note I’d want to visit her wizarding world minus the Death Eaters

She pulled the door wide. The Entrance Hall was so big you could have fitted the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

7. Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen- Bascomb NC

“Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.”

Garden Spells

“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.”

First Frost

61kl8q74sml-_ac_us218_8. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Templeton NY

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_9. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn

“I should have been afraid, walking through a mountainside in the dark by myself. Instead, I felt safe, surrounded by the songs of birds, engulfed by the scents of sweet moss and pine, and cocooned in a mist that contained a little bit of magic.”

 

41mbxlnvcll-_ac_us218_10. Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantcock

“I could see sunlight making exquisite patterns on the water’s surface above me. Everything seemed fascinating and very slow. All around me lionfish darted like golden suns and moons in an alchemists’s dream. I looked down to where a vast labyrinth of black seaweed awaited me.” – Sabine’s Notebook

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The Book Courtship Tag

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I was tagged by the wonderful Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility to participate in The Book Courtship Challenge.

Phase 1: Initial Attraction (A book you bought because of the cover)

51jim7nty8l-_ac_us218_The  Children’s Book by AS Byatt– I love the contrast between the blue cover and the green jeweled dragonfly. Since I’ve read other books by AS Byatt and liked them, and since the synopsis (about a British family before and after WWI) interested me, I decided to buy it. But the cover definitely helped me make that decision. But apparently, I shouldn’t judge books by their covers (who knew?) because this was a bit of a disappointment.

 

Phase 2: First Impressions (A book you got because of the summary)

51cztvl1wgl-_ac_us218_The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase– This one was difficult because I usually pick books based on their summaries. So I just went with the most recent.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

Rich with the heat and angst of love both young and old, The Wildling Sisters is a gorgeous and breathtaking journey into the bonds that unite a family and the darkest secrets of the human heart.

It’s got a few elements I love: mysterious house in the English countryside, dual timeline, hints of murder… It wasn’t brilliant but it was an entertaining read.

Phase 3: Sweet Talk (A book with great writing)

61gfhxkbrll-_ac_us218_Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff–  I can see where someone might not like this novel; there aren’t really characters who the reader has sympathy for, and if you don’t like stories with multiple threads that don’t come together until later in the book, you won’t like this. But it’s hard to deny that Groff’s prose is an accomplishment. At times it’s weighty: when the focus is on a rather pretentious character it becomes so full of metaphors and literary references that it can be hard to “get”. But that’s intentional. When the perspective changes so does the writing.

 Phase 4: First Date (A first book of a series which made you want to pursue the rest of the series)

51znbwc8r-l-_ac_us218_The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati– I am impatiently waiting for the second book in this series to come out! It takes place in NYC in 1883 and follows two female doctors, Anna and Sophie. There’s romance, mystery, and some real historical figures like Anthony Comstock. Comstock saw himself as a protector of morality and in this novel, he serves as a kind of villain. But all together, it’s a lot of fun.

 

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Calls (A book that kept you up all night long)

41ieqbejzwl-_ac_us218_Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James– This is the most recent book to give me the “just one more chapter…” problem. It’s not great literature but it’s a fun read. In 1921 Jo works as a paid companion to Dottie, the aunt of her husband Alex, who died in WWI. When she goes to live with Dottie at Wych Elm House, she’s exposed to things that go bump in the night, family secrets, and the fact that her late husband might not have been entirely truthful with her. This book did a nice job with atmosphere and it kept the tension going with some plot twists and turns.

Phase 6: Always On My Mind (A book you couldn’t stop thinking about)

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara– This book is hard to describe because some elements are so beautiful and others are so ugly. The prose is lovely. Its one of the few books where I would read and savor certain parts again and again. Some of the content is beautiful too; dealing with family, friendship, and love of all kids. But some of what the main character endures is so ugly. The fact that Yanagihara’s writing can be beautiful even when she’s describing horrors is somewhat disturbing. I still think about the characters sometimes as if they’re real people.

 7: Getting Physical (A book you love the feel of)

51j0fpre5nl-_ac_us218_Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock- This book is a tactile experience. It’s a love story told through the letters of two artists. You take each letter from the envelope and read it. Often there’s a postcard in there, and some decorative stamps as well. The letters are on different stationary, sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed. The story itself is good too! One of these characters might be mentally ill and hallucinating the whole correspondence. Or Griffin and Sabine might actually have a psychic connection from different universes.

Phase 8: Meeting the Parents (A book you would recommend to your friends and family)

51vrv0hceml-_ac_us218_Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi- First of all, I’m cautious recommending books because one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I need to know something about someone and their tastes before recommending. But this is one I’d recommend to most people. It’s a “memoir in books”. Nafisi had to leave her job as a professor at the University of Tehran due to repressive policies. But she invited seven of her best female students into her home each week to discuss classic Western literature. I think this book really explores how fiction can take people outside of themselves, how it can inspire people to create real-world change, and how it can help people survive in difficult times. I came away from this book feeling, perhaps for the first time, that reading a novel might be the most subversive thing a person can do.

Phase 9: Thinking About the Future (A book or series that you know you’ll re-read many times in the future)

61bwr8sfvhl-_ac_us218_Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards– This is a lovely, comforting book. I remember picking it up randomly as a kid and falling in love with the characters and the setting. And when I flipped to the “about the author” page and saw that Julie Edwards was actually the married name of the Julie Andrews (who I knew and worshipped thanks to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) I was wowed. I reread it a few years ago, and it still put a smile on my face. I think it might be one to revisit in the future when I need something comforting and cozy.

Phase 10: Share the Love (Here’s who I’m tagging)

(Sorry if you’ve already been tagged, and there’s no pressure to participate if you don’t feel like it)

If I didn’t tag you, don’t let that stop you, go for it!

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

August 29: Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre: Pick a genre and share with us some books that have gone under the radar in that genre!

For this one I decided to go with Magical Realism. It’s a weird genre that, by it’s very name, contradicts itself. Magic in these books is presented alongside the every day things we all know. It’s not really “explained”, we just go with it For those unfamiliar with it, some of the better known titles in this genre include One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The House of the Spirits by Isabella Allende, The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Authors such as John Luis Borges, Alice Hoffman, Toni Morrison, Laura Esquival, Haruki Murakami, and Junot Diaz are all known for using this to different degrees. I chose some lesser known works that qualify as “hidden gems”. Some of these veer pretty far into the “magical” side of the genre, while others are more firmly grounded in the real.

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_1. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn-  Twenty years ago, Sandy Shortt’s classmate disappeared. Since then  she’s been obsessed with missing things. So much so that finding missing people becomes her life’s work. Jack Ruttle hires Sandy to find his brother, Donal, who vanish a year ago. But while she’s working on the case something strange happens. She stumbles on a place where missing things- and people- end up. Those socks that she thought the dryer ate? The teddy bear she lost as a kid? And all the missing people that Sandy’s struggled to find over the years. But now Sandy is struggling to find a way to get back where she belongs. Ahearn is an Irish writer who has some lovely work in this genre. I also recommend If  You Could See Me Now, Thanks for the Memories, and The Book of Tomorrow.

“It’s difficult to know which second among a lifetime of seconds is more special. Often when you realise how precious those seconds are, it’s too late for them to be captured because the moment has passed. We realise too late.”

51j1v5z8h0l-_ac_us218_2. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter- Carter is one of my all time favorites. Her writing is beautiful. In this book, Jack Walser, a turn of the century American journalist, interviews and investigates Sophie Fevvers. Sophie is a circus performer who is said to be part woman and part swan. Jack wants to find out if she’s legit, and so he joins the circus, following it through Europe and getting bizarre, fantastic story of Sophie’s life. The characters are larger than life, but so is the circus, so it all fits.

“She sleeps. And now she wakes each day a little less. And, each day, takes less and less nourishment, as if grudging the least moment of wakefulness, for, from the movement under her eyelids, and the somnolent gestures of her hands and feet, it seems as if her dreams grow more urgent and intense, as if the life she lives in the closed world of dreams is now about to possess her utterly, as if her small, increasingly reluctant wakenings were an interpretation of some more vital existence, so she is loath to spend even those necessary moments of wakefulness with us, wakings strange as her sleepings. Her marvellous fate – a sleep more lifelike than the living, a dream which consumes the world.
‘And, sir,’ concluded Fevvers, in a voice that now took on the sombre, majestic tones of a great organ, ‘we do believe . . . her dream will be the coming century.
‘And, oh, God . . . how frequently she weeps!”

51371fbdool-_ac_us218_3. Forever by Pete Hamill- In 1741, Cormac O’Connor seeks to avenge the death of his father. So he follows the murderer from Ireland to New York City. On board the ship, Cormac meets Kongo, an African slave. He saves Kongo, and gets shot himself in the process. Kongo’s priestess, grants Cormac eternal life, and eternal youth, in return; but only if he never leaves the island of Manhattan.  We follow Cormac for over two hundred years, as he becomes involved in the American Revolution, hangs out with Boss Tweed, witnesses epidemics, and watches as the city grows and changes; and sees all it’s beauty and ugliness co-existing. Once we’ve accepted the magic that grants Cormac eternal life, the book is more historical, though hints of fantasy pop in here and there. It’s a bittersweet story, because Cormac sees the world as few experience it, but he also remains outside of it- confined to a tiny island, forever young, watching those he cares about as they age and die. Hamill also wrote Snow in August, another magical realist novel that is set in historical NYC, though this one veers more into the fantasy genre toward the end.

“I don’t know what that means. To truly live.”
“To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.”

51dvjy072kl-_ac_us218_4. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- Josey Cirrini lives an uneventful life. Her guilty pleasures involve romance novels and sweets, which she eats in her closet. She lives in the North Carolina town of Bald Slope with her widowed mother. One day, while in her closet having a sugar fix, Josey finds that it’s already occupied by Della Lee, a local waitress who is taking refuge after a fight with her boyfriend. Della refuses to leave, and threatens to tell Josey’s fussy, high society mother about  her secret closet candy binges if Joesy doesn’t let her stay. So Josey finds herself doing Della’s bidding. She befriends Chloe, a woman who finds that books seem to appear whenever she might need them, and Adam, the mailman that Josey’s been crushing on for years.  At first it’s hard to understand Josey’s slave-like commitment to her mother, or how Della could manage to stay in a closet as a long term arrangement. But the pieces of the puzzle come together eventually. Allen’s other work in the genre is also very much worth reading. Garden Spells is her best known (so much so that I don’t know if it qualifies as a “hidden gem” for the purposes of this list), First Frost, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper and Lost Lake. In the wrong mood these might come off as saccharine but in the right mood they’re just the right sweet treat.

“She bought a plume of blue cotton candy before they left the food booths, and she picked at it while they headed down the row of booths occupied by residents of Bald Slope who had spent all summer making walnut salad bowls and jars of pickled watermelon rind to sell at the festival. Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snowglobe world.”

61eh6n0ejfl-_ac_us218_5. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Lauren Groff is better known for literary fiction (Fates and Furies, Arcadia) so I was surprised by this venture. Wilhelmina “Willie” Upton is close to completing her PhD in archaeology when she returns to her upstate New York home town of Templeton, after the conclusion of a disastrous affair with her adviser. That same day, a dead Loch Ness monster type creature is found in the lake. Willie discovers that her mother, a hippie, has found Jesus. She confesses to Wille that she isn’t the product of a commune orgy (which is what she original told her daughter) but is the daughter of one of the men in town, who is descended from the town’s founder. With that little information to go on, Willie begins to investigate, and she discovers that Templeton is the home to many monsters. The creature in the lake was one kind, but others are in the form of secrets kept by the townspeople. And some of these monsters are actually beautiful.

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

51ucuhb38pl-_ac_us218_6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson- Full disclosure: I almost stopped reading this book after the first chapter, because in it, the main character is in a near fatal car accident. We’re treated to graphic descriptions of his injuries and medical treatment, to the point where I wanted to put down the book (and never get into a car again).  I kept reading because reviews urged readers to push through those first few chapters, and I’m glad I did. After our unnamed narrator, a porn star by trade, is in his accident, he spends his days  in the burn unit, planning his suicide. One day, in walks Marianne Engel, sculptress of “the grotesque”, who may be mentally ill or divinely inspired. She tells the Burned Man that they’ve known each other in a past life, and he humors her and listens to their elaborate love love story unfolding over several hundred years. We can attribute Marianne’s long outrageous tale to mental illness, and the Burned Man’s eventual belief in it to his morphine addiction following his accident. Or we can take the plunge and go through this story with a sense of magic.

“This will mark the third time that an arrow has entered my chest. The first time brought me to Marianne Engel. The second time separated us.

The third time will reunite us.”

51j0fpre5nl-_ac_us218_7. Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock- Griffin is a London based artist. One day he gets a note from a South Pacific artist named Sabine Strohem. She congratulates him on his recent work and mentions a change that he made in the creative process. Griffin never told anyone about that, but Sabine claims to “share his sight”. She may have a telepathic connection to Griffin. Or she may be completely imaginary.  We read the letters that they exchange. In fact, the book is made up of removable letters, postcards and artwork. You know the temptation to go through someone else’s things, and read their mail? This is a perfect way to indulge that. We get to know these characters through their art & handwriting, as well as the content of their letters. It’s a tactile, sensory, literary experience. It’s follow by two direct sequels; Sabine’s Notebook, and The Golden Mean.  There’s a secondary trilogy with a new set of lovers with a mysterious connection to Griffin and Sabine. That’s made up of The Gryphon, Alexandria, and The Morning Star. The Pharos Gate brings the story to a final conclusion.

“Our house was a temple to The Book. We owned thousands, nay millions of books. They lined the walls, filled the cupboards, and turned the floor into a maze far more complex than Hampton Court’s. Books ruled out lives. They were our demi-gods.”

61e3dwvmj7l-_ac_us218_8. The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes- A mysterious spirit arrives at 66 Star Street in Dublin. It makes itself at home and watches the lives of the residents unfold as it counts down to…something.  The building is home to Katie, a 40 year old PR worker with a commitment phobic boyfriend. It’s also the home of newlyweds Meave and Matt, who are bound together by a secret that may eventually drive them apart. Then there’s Jemima, an elderly psychic who lives in the building. Her son, Fionn, is staying with her temporarily as he auditions for TV shows. The spirit sneaks around the building, learning all it can about the residents and unknowlingly brings their lives together in unexpected ways.

“A cynical type might suggest that it was all a little too perfect. But a cynical type would be wrong.”

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_19. Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Ashley Cordova, 24 year old daughter of acclaimed horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned building in New York City.  Journalist Scott McGrath once tried to do a story on the reclusive Cordova. That attempt cost him his job and his marriage. Yet he can’t help but be intrigued by Ashely’s death. Why is her life, and her father’s, so shrouded in mystery? Cordova lives on a vast estate known as The Peak, where all his films are shot. He no longer leaves the compound. Why? As Scott investigates he comes across several explanations for Cordova’s reclusiveness and Ashley’s death.  These range from black magic to human failure. But as his investigations draw Scott closer to the legendary filmmaker, his life begins to resemble a dark, disturbing, Codrova film. This book plays with the edge between reality and fantasy. The supernatural explanations for Ashley’s fate are given just as much (sometimes more) credibility as the more realistic ones. This isn’t a book to read if you expect every i dotted and every t crossed. But if you’re up for a weird trip, this one is a great ride.

“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out?”

41d4ws5ecl-_ac_us218_10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray- Cameron Smith is a pretty average high school junior until he gets some bad news: he has Creutzfeldt-Jacob aka “mad cow” disease and he’s going to die soon.  When he gets a – possibly hallucinatory – visit from Dulcie, a guardian angel with a major sugar addiction, he gets a flash of hope. According to Dulcie, a cure exists, if he’s willing to look for it. With the help of Gonzo, a hypochondriac, video gaming dwarf, he goes off in search of it. The two embark on a crazy road trip through the side of America that most people never get to see. This is a bizarre, trippy take on Don Quixote. Cameron may be crazy, he may be brilliant, he may be dying, and he may be attacking windmills. Gonzo makes for a Sancho Panza who carries around a yard gnome that is possibly also a Norse god. Dulcie is of course the punk rock, angelic Dulcinea. It’s trippy, it’s funny, and if you just go with it, it’s occasionally brilliant.

“As a kid, I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe.”