They have their function, all the ways we try to make sense of the world we inhabit, a world in which there are few, if any, easy answers. Every day we attempt to understand it. And every night we close our eyes, and go to sleep, and, for a few hours, quietly and safely, we go stark staring mad.
They sat on the floor, I had a chair, fifty seven-year-old eyes gazed up at me. “When I was your age, people told me not to make things up,” I told them. “These days, they give me money for it.” For twenty minutes I talked, then they asked questions.
And eventually one of them asked it.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
And I realized I owed them an answer. They weren’t old enough to know any better. And it’s a perfectly reasonable question, if you aren’t asked it weekly.
This is what I told them.
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.
Fat Charlie went back to his hotel room, the color of underwater, where his lime sat, like a small green Buddha, on the countertop.
“You’re no help,” he told the lime. This was unfair. It was only a lime; there was nothing special about it at all. It was doing the best it could.
Maybe Anansi’s just some guy from a story, made up back in Africa in the dawn days of the world by some boy with blackfly on his leg, pushing his crutch in the dirt, making up some goofy story about a man made of tar. Does that change anything? People respond to the stories. They tell them themselves. The stories spread, and as people tell them, the stories change the tellers. Because now the folk who never had any thought in their head but how to run from lions and keep far enough away from rivers that crocodiles don’t get an easy meal, now they’re starting to dream about a whole new place to live.
“Now, Anansi stories, they have wit and trickery and wisdom. Now, all over the world, all of the people they aren’t just thinking of hunting and being hunted anymore. Now they’re starting to think their way out of problems–sometimes thinking their way into worse problems.
It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it’s true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It’s not even coincidence. It’s just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.
He was wearing yesterday’s clothes, and he wished he wasn’t. His mother had always told him to wear clean underwear, in case he was hit by a car, and to brush his teeth, in case they needed to identify him by his dental records.