Thursday, May 30, 2013

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

For my thoughts on the first and second books in The Infernal Devices follow the links.

Something a bit different. Instead of my standard commentary I'd like to share an experience I had that relates to the book.
It's about 11:30 on a Saturday morning and I'm headed to work. I'm reading on the train as I usually do. At Medial Center station I close the book and laugh to myself about something that has just occurred. There is a family of five that get on the train and they are all sitting rather close to me.

A girl, who I took to be the middle, perhaps eldest child in the family, notices the book in my lap and walks over to sit next to me. Cute kid; this is my general feeling to all people near twenty years my junior. (Younger than that and my feelings turn to 'Cute Baby.') Pretty Caucasian girl voluntarily decides to relocate and sit right next to me on the train. This is the first in a series of very peculiar events that have the potential to alter my life.

"How do you like that?" she said inclining her head toward the book in my hands. "I just finished Clockwork Prince."

I look at her; as objectively as I can. I look; at her. Nothing is different upon further inspection than the glance I gave her and her family upon stepping onto the train: cute kid.

"Did you like Clockwork Prince?"

She shrugs her shoulders in a non-committal yet non-defiant sort of way. "Eh, if you can put up with Cassandra Clare in general it was kinda awesome."

I'm the only person I know who speaks like she has spoken and while I've had many conversations with myself (you'd be amazed at what I've accomplished in these talks) I've never before responded in the voice of a fourteen year old girl. It was rather odd to say the least.

"You mean her pretentious, faux 19th century, affected, English or her seemingly physical impossibility to render even one believable male character?"

"Yeah, that, but I really meant how she writes for a teenage audience and can't come up with a teenage character that I buy into: contemporary or historical. And the overwrought romantic stuff kinda makes me throw up in my mouth a bit."

"Have you punched Will in the face yet?"

"Couple times, but I forgave him when I found out about the curse. She's way better at creating tension then resolving it."

"Don't get me started on that," I said. "I know for fact I just read “The End” of this," I said referencing Clockwork Princess, "and yet it keeps ending. She won't shut up. There's still like another hundred and fifty pages of ending. I don't know why it won't stop but it won't." I'm quiet and look at her again. We've spent five minutes hating on the finer points of Cassandra Clare. She managed to use ‘overwrought’ organically in sentence; you get major style points for that.

Now, I really look at her. I'm a little more than half-way in love.

She's wearing a Braves hat that I don't own any iteration of (which is really, really rare). It's navy and white and at the time I'm guessing it to be a Negro league replica for the Atlanta Black Crackers. The hat alone endears me to her more than anything that has happened or is yet to come.  This is not a hat for the casual Braves, or even baseball, fan.  She's got a Braves tee-shirt on and an off-white Tim Hudson jersey over the top of that. I glance over towards her family. They are all equally decked-out in Braves regalia.

"Y'all going to the game?" From Twain, to Faulkner, to every writer of the present: I hate to see southern American accents phonetically dictated on paper, or the screen if you will. Not only is it an eyesore, but it ain't ever quite right. I don't 'turn it on' as it were, but upon first meeting someone (even should that person be a fourteen year old girl who I have no designs of impressing for any reason whatsoever) I do unconsciously hold it in check.

This child has gotten to the heart of me faster than anyone I've met in years. It's in part the bizarreness of circumstances: Cassandra Clare, my commute to work, and the Braves. I’m always comfortable in my own skin but this is plain old weird.

"Yeah. My Dad dugout seats for my birthday. I've never seen Hudson pitch in person before." I’m learning so much and so fast that I start to feel dizzy.

I didn’t know fourteen year old girls asked for dugout seats to a Braves game for their birthday. I didn’t know that their favorite ‘celebrity’ could be a pitcher from Alabama. I’m still not sure if Cassandra Clare balances these other peculiarities out or only exacerbates the oddity of the moment.

I tell myself I'm not in the Twilight Zone. Saying the words are easy; believing them is anther matter entirely. As if to further impede my understanding of the moment and reinforce the truth that reality is bending all around me we then talk about the Braves sad history of acquiring horrible unrestricted free agents at super high prices. She drops names like Kenshin Kawakami, and Mike Hampton (was she alive then?). I counter with Dan Uggla and Garrett Anderson.

"Oh, don't get me started on Uggla. I can't believe he's paid so much to be that awful." She is visibly agitated upon saying this as opposed to the composure displayed when talking about Clare.

"Well, if it makes you feel better he's not the most overpaid, under-performing dude on the team."

"Wait... You mean BJ Upton makes more?"

Although there’s no mess, my head has just exploded.  I can't qualify how this conversation is happening.

All this happened between Medical Center and North Avenue. My head hurts. I shouldn't be able to talk about Cassandra Clare with fourteen year old girls and yet I did and we talked far past the basics. I also didn't think I would ever talk baseball stats (the nerdiest of nerd things ever; D&D ain't got nothing on baseball) with a child that could not only keep up but impress.

I think I'm in love with this girl and I'm afraid of what that means because it’s inappropriate on so many levels and I have Clare and the Braves to either thank or blame. Happily, I get off at North Avenue and work will help divert my attention from my confusion. (You'll never find a stronger recommendation for Clare or Clockwork Princess than what you've just read.) I say “Happy birthday’ and 'goodbye' and walk over to her parents.

I stare her dad down for a moment trying to gauge as much of his personality as I can with a look. He is oblivious to me, his family, and anything else on the planet that isn’t on his iphone’s screen. "Sir," I said. He looks up to me rather expectantly. "I'd like to declare my intentions for marriage in regards to your daughter."

He laughed his ass off and I got off the train.

The one that got away...


Maria said...

That's an amazing story :) you just gotta wait 4 more years ;)

Chad Hull said...

Further proof that life isn't fair...