Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: Looking for the Girl

PhotobucketLooking for the Girl is the only story in Smoke and Mirrors that Gaiman claimed to sound exactly like himself, not like someone writing for someone else. The story is about a man who got infatuated with a “skin” magazine model and tried to search for her; the years passed with all his efforts going down the drain. He wondered why she never seemed to age through the years, her soft-core porn pictorials indicating she was always nineteen…and she always looked nineteen.

Gaiman indicated in the introduction that the story popped up in his mind after he had a conversation with a real-life model of Penthouse mag about being exploited: “I’m getting well-paid for it, love. And it beats working the nightshift in a Bradfort biscuit factory. But I’ll tell you who’s being exploited. All those blokes who buy it. Wanking over me every month. They’re being exploited.” Another model, who was Gaiman’s friend, dropped out of sight suddenly and was never seen again.

Looking for a Girl is no extraordinary story, but I really liked how Gaiman used his voice here. In writing stories you should always involve the readers, and though Gaiman told the tale in first person point of view, he managed to involve the audience by effectively letting them see and feel what the main character sees or feels. It’s actually like just talking to a friend who’s sharing the story of his bitter life, and the reader would surely want to tap the storyteller’s shoulder and say “it’s okay.” Not that this story is utterly tragic, but the end was quite saddening. You’ll surely empathize despite yourself.

I loved the ending paragraphs very much:

"And Charlotte?
In Greece, the philosophers are debating, Socrates is drinking hemlock, and she's posing for a sculpture of Erato, muse of light poetry and lovers, and she's nineteen.
In Crete she's oiling her breasts, and she's jumping bulls in the ring while King Minos applauds, and someone's painting her likeness on a wine-jar, and she's nineteen.

In 2065 she's stretched out on the revolving floor of a holographic photographer, who records her as an erotic dream in Living Sensolove, imprisons the sight and sound and the very smell of her in a tiny diamond matrix.

She's only nineteen.

And the caveman outlines Charlotte with burnt stick on the wall of the temple of a cave, filling in the shape and texture of her with earths and berry-dyes. Nineteen.

Charlotte is there, in all places, all times, sliding through our fantasies, a girl forever.

I want her so much it makes me hurt sometimes. that's when I take down the photographs of her, and just look at them for a while, wondering why I didn't try to touch her, why I wouldn't really even speak to her when she was there, and never coming up with an answer that I could understand.

That's why I've written this all down, I suppose.

This morning I noticed yet another grey hair at my temple. Charlotte is nineteen. Somewhere."

Plot-wise, this story didn’t quite satisfy me much, but style-wise, I’m giving it a thumb-up. Neil Gaiman was commissioned by the Penthouse to write this story for their twenty-fifth anniversary issue, January 1985.

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