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Book Review: The Good Fairies Of New York by Martin Millar

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New York City has long been known for attracting visitors and immigrants from all over the world as well as being a centre for artistic creation. So is it any wonder that artists of all shapes and sizes have shown up there seeking out fame and fortune? However, I doubt that even the creators of the I Love NY campaign (the first people to implement that annoying design of using a heart instead of the word love and who, in light of its subsequent ubiquitous usage, should have committed ritual suicide ages ago) could have foreseen the folk who flocked to the Big Apple in the absurdist fantasy novel The Good Fairies Of New York.

While the book was originally published quite some time ago in England, both Soft Skull Press and Tor Books currently have copies of the title on the market, with the latter being a mass market paperback while the former is available in an inexpensive trade paperback format. If it seems like I'm being a little bit biased towards Soft Skull, it's only because they've taken the extraordinary step for an independent publisher of picking up all of Millar's back catalogue, and have been steadily republishing his works on a regular basis for the last couple of years. It was largely due to the success of Good Fairies when it was originally published back in 2006 that inspired them to be so unusually generous for a publisher.

I had read (and reviewed) Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl when it was first released, but had missed out on Good Fairies. Having enjoyed others of his recently released backlist (Ruby And The Stone Age Diet and Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation) it became imperative that I read Good Fairies. After all, as Neil Gaiman so accurately puts it in his introduction: "It has a war in it and a most unusual production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream and Johnny Thunders' New York Dolls guitar solos. What more could anyone desire from a book?"

What indeed? In fact not only do his guitar solos play a key role in the book, the ghost of Thunders himself wanders through on a quest — he is searching for his lost 1958 Gibson Tiger Top electric guitar which was stolen from him after a gig at CBGBs. According to what he tells fellow former and deceased member of the New York Dolls Billy Murcia, as they are hanging out in Heaven, he had put it down on a bar stool, turned away for a minute, and when he looked again it was gone.

Thunder's quest, however, no matter how urgent it might be to him (there's a definite lack of gritty rock and roll in Heaven) is merely a side show to the greater tales at hand – namely the recounting of the exile of two Scottish Thistle fairies, Morag MacPherson and Heather MacKintosh, and how they come to the aid of two of New York City's rather more typical inhabitants. Dinnie MacKintosh and Kerry live across the street from each other, but the gulf that divides their characters is as deep as the Grand Canyon and as wide as the Pacific Ocean. For while Kerry is a graceful beauty full of compassion and love for almost all her fellow human beings, (the sole exception being Cal, her ex-boyfriend who dumped her when he found out she had a colostomy bag and completely reneged on his promise to teach her Johnny Thunder's guitar solos from his days with the New York Dolls, thus she is determined to wreak horrible vengeance on him in some form or another) Dinnie is not only the city's worst fiddle player, he's overweight, a slob, a bigot, and generally all around mean person.

So when Heather and Morag flutter through his apartment window stoned and drunk on too many magic mushrooms and too much single malt whisky he's not exactly ecstatic to see them. Nor is he much mollified by Heather's assurances that fairy vomit smells sweet to humans after she spews on his arm and carpet, and begins to heap abuse on their heads and demand they leave, even though both Morag and Heather tell him that humans in Scotland would be thrilled to be visited by fairies. He eventually gets half his wish when the two fairies discover a) that he is a MacKintosh like Heather and b) how bad a fiddle player Dinnie is. All of which leads to Morag making derogatory remarks about MacKintosh fiddle playing in general, and the two fairies having a glorious row ending only when Morag flutters out the window and Heather vows she can teach even a clod like Dinnie to play better than any MacPherson.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.