REVIEWS

[The Night Shifters is] a fascinating ride. The voice feels a lot like Neil Gaiman. This is a huge compliment in my mind, and one not to be taken lightly.” - Melinda VanLone Reviews

Friday, May 29, 2009

What's Joie de Weird?

Now that I’m 50, I remember what I knew when I was 5 :The Secret of happiness is Joie de Vivre, the ability to enjoy the simple things in life. Every other pleasure springs from this basic ability; the lack of it cripples your appreciation of everything from food, to music, to romantic encounters. But it takes more than just the love of waffles and singing birdies to fully appreciate life. You can’t have Joie de Vivre unless you also have Joie de Weird.
Everyone probably has their own definition of Joie de Weird. For some, it may be a fascination with the macabre, or the grotesque, or the abnormal, or any combination of all three. But Joie de Weird isn’t that simple, any more than Joie de Vivre is. Joie de Weird, as it relates to happiness, is an attitude. Perfectionism, intolerance, and cowardice will drive it away. If you are continually feeling disappointed in things because they don’t live up to your standards, if you are always bored because nothing seems interesting, you don’t have Joie de Weird, even if you like to watch slasher movies. Maybe Especially if you do.
So – what is this Joy of Weird stuff, then? Can you love monsters without being one? I love gardening and geology, so I’ll use those subjects to explain why the answer is Yes. Gardeners deal with as much failure as we do success – in fact, some years it’s mostly failure. But most of us are as interested in what goes wrong in the garden as what goes right, and not just because we’re trying not to repeat the same mistakes. We’re like scientists in an outdoor lab – some of us are even mad scientists (Give my creature – Liiiiife!) So when mold and black spot show up, we watch in fascination even as we hustle to fix the problem. When flowers age past their prime and dry up, we enjoy crunching them between our hands and sowing their seeds. When aphids show up, we squish the little devils and joke about the true meaning of "green thumb." We make compost out of yucky garbage and cultivate the friendship of wiggly red worms. And we think this is fun. Non-gardeners marvel at the beauty of our creation without guessing how much weirdness goes into it.
Geologists also have Joie de Weird. In fact, it may be a prerequisite for the job. A geologist may agree that a mountainside covered with trees and grass is a lovely thing, but what she really wants to see are the bare bones of that mountain so she can figure out what it’s made of, when it formed, what’s been happening to it for millions of years. She may have plenty of practical reasons for figuring this out, like mining, oil prospecting, looking for gems, but these reasons are really just excuses (okay, really good excuses) for satisfying her curiosity. The weirder the rocks, the better.
Joie de Vivre is the love of the natural world. Joie de Weird is a fascination with natural processes mixed with a sense of wonder. Without Joie de Weird, the natural world is just going to freak you out. And that’s no fun at all.
This blog is dedicated to Joie de Weird. I hope you are too.