I’ve gotta be honest, I didn’t know who Tiffany Haddish was until she hosted Saturday Night Live a few months ago. After a few lines of the monologue, I liked her. I felt like I knew her.
Her book is called The Last Black Unicorn, which was a huge draw for me because I loved The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I knew when I started reading that Haddish’s Unicorn would be nothing like Beagle’s, but she had my attention.
From the beginning, she got me with her voice, which reads just like the SNL monologue. The narrative is conversational and intimate about her difficult life. Her stories are hilarious, heartbreaking, and vulnerable, and I couldn’t help but love her at the end.
While I’ve read meatier books, or ones that make a stronger point, as a matter of character, this is one of the better memoirs I’ve read.
Lightness follows one of the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and how she learns to see beauty again.
I had to read this book in small doses because of the subject matte’s gravity. While the “plot” of the book can be summed up tidily, the author pulls us into her head by showing how faulty her memory had become after the attack and by tying her past to her present. She sees the attack everywhere she goes, from the police escort that follows her in Paris, to the statues in Rome, to paintings in the Louvre. She sees her dead colleagues when she experiences things they would have enjoyed.
When the attack happened, I was working at a French salon in New York. Everyone was glued to their phones in horror as the news came through (and then again at the end of the year when the Bataclan was attacked). For me as an author, I thought about what it meant that a group of cartoonists were murdered — sure, I didn’t write the same kinds of things they did, but surely I was objectionable to someone. And even if what is written really is offensive (my boss at the salon bought the first issue Charlie Hebdo released after the attack, and when he showed it to his clients, there were a few cartoons he refused to translate because “that one’s really bad”), do they deserve to die for it? And I have to admit, I was swept up in the “Je Sui Charlie” hashtag along with my writing community, because of course, that answer is NO.
The style of this book reminded me of Guy Delisle’s travel graphic novels. Story-wise, there’s not much to them, but through the eyes of the narrator, you see a place you might never go yourself — and in the case of Lightness, feel something you (hopefully) will never feel.
Jimmy is a 15 year with some demands for the Devil (wishes, to be specific). As you might expect, ol’ Satan had his own ideas.
This story is an easy, quick read that left me smiling the whole way through. It has moments of humor, thoughtfulness, and because we’re dealing with a character as basal as Satan, it challenges ingrained ideas.
“I’m not sure you fully understand the implications of the proposition,” Lucifer replied slowly. “Your soul, the part of you that lasts forever, in exchange for three wishes. Wishes that I presume will benefit your temporal personage?”
Jimmy stared with a perplexed expression.
“Your earthly body, genius.”
“Oh,” Jimmy said brightly. “Yeah, exactly.”
“Go home kid,” Satan said, “before you get hurt.”
Lucifer is powerful, able to grant a wish, and already suggesting said wish will not be chosen well. The “Go home” suggests maybe he’s not as big a dick as culture portrays.
Thinking Satan isn’t a dick goes against everything I learned as a lifelong Christian. Instead, I should wish him to sit on a tack (ouch!), not be afraid of him, and most of all: never, ever mess with him (this means not entertaining witches like Harry Potter, not hugging trees like those nature-worshiping faeries in Fern Gully, and not acknowledging someone else has power, like that hussy Synergy on Jem and the Holograms).
The nice thing about being an adult and letting a piece of fiction be a piece of fiction is that I can read about someone who’s supposed to be my enemy and see the good in them. Or at least be curious about who they are.
But as great as the main characters are in this story, the supporting cast is just as good. Mig, I love you.
This short story is funny, it challenges ideas we already have, but also conforms to the idea that people get what’s coming to them. I mean, you don’t expect a story about Satan to be completely above board, do you?
Taylor Dunn is also the author of another short story called Fear and Loathing in Shanghai, which I beta read, but haven’t read the finished product. Also available is a full-length novel (also featuring Lucifer) called Clockwork Angels (which I beta read as well, and it’s one of my favorites). If these works are anything to go by, this author will be entertaining us for a long time.