SEBBY seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and his best friend Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. MIRA is starting over at St. Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can't get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she's with Sebby. JEREMY is the painfully shy art nerd at St. Francis who's been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it's as if he's been expecting him. As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira's world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don't understand their quest to live for the impossible.
Fans of the Impossible Life was published on September 10th in the UK, by Macmillan Children's Books, and thanks to author Kate Scelsa for writing this post for me!
What I Love: Nick Cave
by Kate Scelsa
It should be noted that there are two famous Nick Caves – one is an American multimedia artist and one is an Australian musician. They are both very cool and one time they met and took a picture together:
But this post is about the artist Nick Cave, seen in that picture on the left, whose art mostly consists of what he calls Soundsuits, elaborate costumes that cover a person’s entire body and are made out of sticks or toys or crazy fur. Some of them are horses. Some of them look like they escaped from a children’s book. Some have masks and reference ancient folklore and tribal costumes.
Cave has a background in dance, and he decided to call the outfits Soundsuits when he put one on and started to move in it, and it made a sound.
In my young adult novel “Fans of the Impossible Life,” my character Jeremy tries to convince his friend Mira to join his newly formed art club, but Mira insists that she’s not an artist, she just likes to sew things. Jeremy shows her his favorite art book, Nick Cave’s “Meet Me at the Center of the Earth,” to prove to her that art can be many things.
I chose to reference Cave’s work in FANS partly because I’m a fan of the ways in which his work is so playful and unpretentious. Cave’s creations often venture out into the world, staging performances on street corners and interrupting a normal day with a kind of joyful exuberance that I think many artists shy away from because they don’t think something so joyful could be seen as “serious art.” But I also chose to reference Cave’s work because I find his Soundsuits to be deeply profound, and I think my characters relate to his images on this deeper level as well.
Many of Cave’s creations reference folklore and fantasy, so there’s a conversation happening here with history and with the history of ritual and magic. It’s a powerful thing to put on a costume and transform yourself completely into someone or something else. There’s a simultaneous erasure of you as an individual and a heightening of a regular human into something that seems to have an otherworldly power to it. In a 2009 New York Times profile, the artist said, “When I was inside a suit, you couldn’t tell if I was a woman or man; if I was black, red, green or orange; from Haiti or South Africa. I was no longer Nick. I was a shaman of sorts.”
In 2013 Cave staged a performance with some dancers from the Alvin Ailey School wearing his horse Soundsuits in Grand Central:
A friend of mine took her four-year-old son to see it and he completely freaked out. There is something very powerful and uncanny about seeing the Soundsuits in motion. And part of what’s amazing about them is how low tech they are. Cave is just covering people in stuff and having them move. A big part of their charm is how evocative they are while being so relatively simple.
Jeremy tells us in FANS that his favorite photograph in “Meet Me at the Center of The Earth” is of a “stick figure peering out from the cave of its own body, an empty basket where its face should have been.”
Looking at this image as a writer, there’s already a story forming in my mind around this creature. Why doesn’t it have a face? Why does it seem so inquisitive? Is it hiding something? Is it afraid?
I love the way that you can lose yourself in this kind of fantasy with each of Cave’s pieces. And the fact that the narrative of them is centered on an individual rather then on the environment (the way that it is in installation art) also seems very powerful to me. Cave is bringing out a kind of secret magic that’s hidden in the individual, almost as if this is what we look like on the inside, and he’s exposing the true self, while simultaneously hiding the figure in the armor of the fantasy. Do we hide our own mysteries? Are we allowed to show all of ourselves? Is there a reason why we need to stay hidden?
But then maybe there’s something as simple going on here as the idea that, if you’re a crazy, colorful fur creature, there’s actually no chance of hiding that part of yourself, so you must embrace it. You must dance, and you must let everyone see your crazy beauty. And the world will be a more joyful place for it.