Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman

Card picked: Ace of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review:

I’ve noticed that I always have trouble putting together my thoughts about Neil Gaiman stories. It’s not that I find his works befuddling, but the layers of the story settle into a hierarchy in my thoughts rather than a simple line. It’s hard to make them into sentences.

A young writer’s first blockbuster novel is optioned to become a movie. He travels to Hollywood to meet with producers and to write the script. This story was published in 1996, so I’m not sure how much Neil Gaiman had been exposed to the Hollywood system at that time, but the writer’s experience seems very reminiscent of William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?. Basically, the writer meets four different sets of producers/directors who have attached themselves to the project, the previous ones never to be heard from again. Each set know less and less about the project. It’s like a game of phone message. When the writer finally leaves, he’s writing a script for a totally different project.

The second thread of the story involves the titular goldfish pond at the old Hollywood hotel where the writer is staying. The pond is looked after by an aged groundskeeper who has been with the hotel since the 1920s. His name is Pious (“Sometimes I am, and sometimes I ain’t.”) and he tells the writer what he knows of old Hollywood–stories of who was popular and beautiful and what became of them. Of course, considering how the younger people of Hollywood have particular memories of people and events (the death of John Belushi is recounted by nearly everyone the writer encounters with the details always different), we wonder how reliable Pious is. Then again, he is the keeper of fish that are very old and maybe immortal.

And the third “other” story is about the writer trying, in his spare time between meetings, to write a story about Victorian stage magic. In particular he’s taken with the illusions known as the Artist’s Dream and the Enchanted Casement. Both were innovated in a time before TV and movies and both involve moving figures within a frame. Unfortunately, the young writer just can’t get a handle on what should happen in the story.

All of these threads, as well as the story of the writer’s original novel, are all woven together in 40 pages. It works well.

Is This Your Card?

I did have a card trick for the Ace of Spades, but I found rendition of the Artist’s Dream presented by Paul Daniels: