Museum of the Weird

museumweirdYa’ll know I like weird stuff, right?

So when I came upon an anthology of short stories by Amelia Gray called Museum of the Weird, I was pretty sure I’d be into it. And I was not disappointed.

Not only was it weird, but it was my kind of weird. A mix between the bizarre, and the banal realities of everyday life.

Fair warning, though, these stories are not for little eyes.

There’s one about a woman who takes her (live) boyfriend traveling with her, in her suitcase.

Another where a woman is on a date in a restaurant and is served a plate of hair.

And one that’s a 3/4 page stream-of-consciousness run-on sentence, involving cottage cheese, among other things.

I’ve left out mention of some of the more off-putting stories because I felt like that might bring down the mood a little, even though those are kind of my favorites.

No matter how bizarre the stories are, though, you still get the sense that these could be real people (including the one about the aardvark and the penguin talking in the bar.) I think that’s what my English professor used to call “versimilitude.”

You know, it’s funny how many of these stories involve food, or at least eating things (some of which are not food). That’s fitting, I suppose. Eating is a weird process. It’s an inherently violent and gross act, but one that occurs so regularly and often accompanied by soft, fuzzy feelings.

I like that, the tension between the bizarre, even gruesome, and normalcy. Like in zombie/disaster/etc movies where the character’s can see it (whatever “it” is), but where they are is normal and safe, even though there is no barrier between safe and not safe.

That’s also how I feel whenever I’m in a moving vehicle without a seat belt.

Some of you may be wondering why anyone would like stuff like this. Fair question, and I think I found it once in a book whose name I have forgotten. The book questioned the notion that reading is inherently a good thing, written by an avid reader.

Some of us like reading about things that are as far as possible from our lived experience (yet also with “versimilitude”). I didn’t read enough to get to the part about why this is-or could be-bad, but I kinda know that already.

Fiction doesn’t just let you escape and imagine what it might be like to be Superman. It also lets you imagine what it might be like to be Lex Luthor. Some villains actually seem to be designed to make you root for them as much as the heroes.

Is that fascinating and entertaining? Sure. Is it as wholesome and edifying as reading is generally supposed to be? Not always.

But it’s pretend. There are no consequences to letting yourself hang out in the mind of a villain (right?). Or, going back to the actual subject of this post, someone who thought it would be a reasonable idea to include human tongue on their culinary adventure (yeah, one of the stories in Museum of the Weird involves cannibalism.)

As long as we all remember this isn’t real. The way villains are portrayed in stories has everything to do with what makes a good story and nothing to do with the actual nature of good and evil. Charismatic villains are entertaining, that doesn’t mean being bad is cool IRL.

This seems like it should be an obvious point, but I feel like that gets lost on some people. You know who you are. You won’t be reading this blog, but if you do I’m looking at you Mr. I-Wanna-Be-The-Dark-One-From-OUAT.

So yes, that is my take on the Museum of the Weird by Amelia Gray. Did I simultaneously defend and criticize reading bizarre stuff like this? Yes, I seldom have only one opinion about anything. Did I apparently randomly insert a very short rant about people who take villains too seriously when this has nothing to do with villains? Yeah, kind of. It’s sort of related, though.

Do with this what you will. No spoilers, but in the future I feel like there’s going to be a lot more weirdness around here.

 

 

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