July 31st, 2006

Join Me in Celebrating the End of Funk Month

After the month I’ve had, I’ve come to a conclusion: “funk” is an onomatopoetic word, like “zip” or “clank.” 

Being in a funk is like a weighty stone plunging into a pond—no splash, of course, nor any ridges or bumps on that bland ball of rock. Down and down it funks and there it lies in silence and solitude—blah, blah, blah. Nothing can reach through the depth of green water and brighten the darkness—not TV Azteca soap operas, not Franz Ferdinand’s disco-infused harmonies, not the promise of a visit to an animation studio for a National Geographic KIDS assignment, not even coffee. (Not even coffee! Think of that.)

So Kevin Crossley Holland’s Arthur: The Seeing Stone was a big surprise. Another take on Arthurian legend (can there be too many takes on it? I think not), this one focuses on the quotidian life of a medieval boy named Arthur who has a mysterious pal named Merlin and discovers that the people he believes to be his parents are not, after all, his birth parents. A “seeing stone”—given him by Merlin, natch—tells him the story of another foster-raised Arthur, a boy king fathered by King Uther. Do the two Arthurs’ stories overlap? And if they do, how? Guess I’ll have to read the sequels to find out.

But I digress.

My point is that this 100-chapter novel and its wide-eyed 13-year-old protagonist—given to spontaneous bursts of song when he’s happily surprised—were a sword of light that pierced the pool of gloom where I lay sighing and submerged.

Take paragraph one:

“Tumber Hill! It’s my clamber-and-tumble-and-beech-and-bramble hill! Sometimes, when I’m standing on the top, I fill my lungs with air and I shout. I shout.”

How can a reader not respond to such exuberance? Certainly I couldn’t resist. And that got me thinking how my words could affect my readers. My words, my tone, my subject, my whole approach. Like Crossley Holland, I could also be the purveyor of Funk Reducer.

Now that July—or, as I like to call it, Funk Month—is drawing to an end, I vow to start anew, slice up through the murky waters, and consider my readers more than my deadlines. Not to mention apologizing to coffee and renewing my slavish devotion to it. Look out, August!