20. It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini
So the other day I was discussing bookage with SJ and writing about books we like came up. It’s more complicated to write about books I like than books I don’t like because often I can’t come up with a reason I like them that’s articulateable. Or that I can write about using real words. It’s not like I don’t want to read books that I like, it’s that most books have an obvious flaw. And as someone who has been through art and writing workshops in college and grad school, I am lazer trained to point out things that could improve over things that I like – because, if you like something, you are supposed to justify it. Why do you like it? Who cares if you like it? What are you trying to say by liking something, that the reader is just supposed to accept that something is good because you say so? And so on. You’re also supposed to find things you like to pad things you don’t like – that’s called constructive criticism…maybe not the straight up definition, but that’s how it usually works out in practice. Anyway, for the rest of this month I’m going to get to the books on my list (I read this one in 2011) that I’ve been avoiding because I like them so much. Maybe. I already wrote about Ruined , that’s my favorite New Orleans ghost story that I’ve read thus far. Specific!
Anyhoo, I like reading about mental illness, especially somewhat sanitized – they’re going to get out of the institution – mental illness. Like watching Hoarders, it articulates that everyone has something wrong with their brain and so if you’re high-functioning, you should be proud of yourself and let some pressure to be even more high functioning go. I adore One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (both book and film) and I have this autobiography about OCD that I’m sure will be helpful. I also initially liked Prozac Nation when I read it as an angsty college student, although I feel different about it now that I have guinea pigs and depression to take care of.
Speaking of guinea pigs, one of the reasons I like It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much is that its protagonist discussed the concept of having anchors. His anchors keep him tethered to this reality or interested in living, they’re what he uses to keep himself connected. I’m sure it’s deeply personal for him, but it let me in on something about myself. I also do this with my guinea pigs. When I read about his anchors, I immediately thought of Twiglet (of course pictured below). When I started keeping guinea pigs again after an eight year absence from their presence, it was like a fireworks display set to the “Funky Fanfare” from the beginning of Quentin Tarantino movies went off in my head. Why the hell had I gone so long without keeping guinea pigs? They’d only been totally important to me since I was ten. They only make my favorite noise in the universe. I’d been relying on my shifty-eyed Big Boy banks and my way too happy Rose O’Neill Buddha (the lawn ornament, non-licensed version) to keep me afloat with little happinesses. There’s more to it than that, but seriously, if you look at the Big Boy or Ho Ho the Buddha, it’s hard not to be amused no matter what mood you started in, especially if you’re me or me-like.
Moving on, Twiglet was a bonus pig. I acquired her mother Pammy, she’s still with me (for now, phew), and soon it became clear that she was knocked up. Depending on where you find your pigs, there’s a chance you will end up with a two month old teen mother. I wasn’t too worried about it beyond not knowing what kind of nutrition she’d been having up to the point when she came to me and how that might affect her ability to give birth or the health of her baby. I thought it was going to be two babies, it felt like two were kicking here, and, I mean, Murderface had three. That’s a lot for a first litter of guinea pigs. And so on August 16th, I set Pammy up in her little exercise run with some parsley to make sure she was staying active so birth wouldn’t be super hard on her and that she had snacks, took a ten minute shower, and came out to find Pammy hiding (never shocking, that’s like her job). I pulled the Mug Root Beer box off of her when it rustled, found two guinea pigs there, and promptly screamed. Pammy ran away. I may have told this story on here before, it was a pivotal moment. Twiglet stayed put. She was leaning to the right super hard, which was weird and I thought she might be dead. I probably scared her to death. I picked her up and saw that Pammy hadn’t finished cleaning her off, so I swiped the mucus away from her nose and her eyes and she was breathing. And leaning. Another very pivotal moment for me.
After the first couple of days I could see that she had a wonky foot (also pictured) and that’s why she leaned. She could sit up straightish eventually, but she could never walk like an adult guinea pig, she always hopped the way baby pigs do. Pammy never let me see her nurse, but Twiglet didn’t stop growing either. Twiglet became a pig who would sit with me and not always try to go off exploring. She hated everybody else in the herd and lived happily with her mother, until she developed symptoms of ovarian cysts and was spayed. Then she only wanted to hang out with her mother sometimes. She fell asleep a lot when I had her out, eyes fully shut (somewhat unusual for guinea pigs), with her little ears twitching away in her sleep. Because she was okay with just sitting there, I often had her out with me while grading, her little weight kept me from going nutballs. Anyone who cares about what they’re grading and/or their students’ potential to improve should be able to understand how nutballs it can make you. One night, mid-class, I was sitting down with her to grade and I noticed she was breathing harder than usual. Two hours earlier she’d been absolutely fine. I took her to the vet, and then I took her again at four AM when I started to realize that she was going to die and that I wished they would have given her stronger medicine the first time I took her…and that was two years ago yesterday. Choose your anchors wisely, they will die of rapidly onsetting pneumonia on you. That took a turn. I’m going to hang out with Pammy and will probably never read that book again, even though I liked it.