The Good Fairies of New York
Having recently moved to New York City, one of my first excursions was to the Strand Bookstore. Late one evening in May, I walked into the shop and, feeling slightly overwhelmed but giddy with excitement, I ventured into the maze of tables and shelves surfeit with books.
Within ten minutes, I happened upon a book entitled The Good Fairies of New York. The title caught my attention: fairies? New York? The titular connotations suggested that the book would be a type of urban fantasy. Seeing that Neil Gaiman, a master of sci-fi and fantasy literature, wrote the introduction (an obvious sign of endorsement: “I owned it for more than five years before reading it, then lent my copy to someone I thought should read it, and never got it back. Do not make either of my mistakes.”), I immediately decided to purchase the book and began to read it as soon as I hopped onto the train.
The book’s opening scene encapsulates the fittingness of the generic prescription of the book as “urban fantasy”: two drunken fairies stumble into a fourth floor window and vomit all over the apartment floor of its owner, Dinnie, who is described as “an overweight enemy of humanity.”
The narrative of The Good Fairies consists of a handful of interwoven plots, such that the events of one plot have an effect, direct or less than direct, on another. There are two prominent storylines among the abundance. The first is that of the two Scottish fairies, Morag and Heather, and their quest to find a way home to Scotland, after mistakenly arriving in Manhattan and, as time passes, becoming engrossed in the various lives and events that occur throughout the city—from fairy wars in Central Park and Harlem to helping the ghost of The New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunder recover his lost guitar.
The second pertains to one of Heather and Morag’s adventures in New York and with New Yorkers, in which they determine to assist Dinnie in becoming a respectable violinist, and, more important, a respectable human capable of winning the heart of the book’s female (human) protagonist, Kerry. Kerry suffers from Crohn’s Disease and spends her time trekking through the city in her quest to unearth rare flowers for her flower alphabet project. Dinnie’s aforementioned distaste of humanity and his corresponding misanthropy sit in contradistinction to Kerry’s love of humanity and her abundant exuberance for life—a positive effect of her disease. Clearly, it is not quite love at first sight for the two, but the fairies vow to make the match.
Millar is wonderfully successful in capturing the mad buzz, the electric energy, the vibrancy and vitalistic life of New York City. Like many fantasy novels, the eccentric characters make the novel memorable. But, unlike a majority of texts in this genre, this particular one refuses to follow any particular, trite, story-arc oft associated with the fantasy (as a type of romance) genre. Instead, what The Good Fairies follows is the pulse of New York City and the beatings of the characters’ hearts, filled with punk rock beats and melodies.