Whimsy is important to me. Most everything I love about art — music, movies, books — comes down to one aspect: whimsy. I appreciate technical masterpieces like a Rachmaninoff concerto or a Joycean short story. I enjoy gritty realism like Law and Order or Lord of the Flies. However, my love lies with those pieces that make you wonder and smile, that turns the mundane into the fantastic with a turn of phrase or a splash of color.
Whimsy is one of the most difficult aspects of art to quantify. It’s one of those “you know it when
you see it” things. It’s a butterfly landing on the rim of a lemonade glass or a wind-up toy that never dies down.
Whimsy is why Miyazaki movies are so compelling. Whimsy is the noise Totoro makes when he opens his mouth and the castle floating in the sky.
Whimsy is the feeling of the uncanny when the mundane is melded with the fantastic. It’s the bright colors in The Yellow Submarine. It’s the surreal made comfortable. It’s what made Harry Potter a phenomenon. It’s the feeling you get when you look out on a lake and imagine a mermaid swimming right below the surface.
Whimsy is the green apple in Rene Magritte paintings. It’s the extra-dimensions of Escher.
Whimsy is reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, pretending you’re looking over the shoulder of Willy Wonka as he gazes out on his candy empire.
Whimsy is one of the reasons we start reading and telling stories in the first place. It’s why children can have imaginary friends with no sense of self-consciousness. Whimsy allows us to believe in the unbelievable, to suspend our disbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Whimsy is the reason why we can be scared by ghost stories. Even in the most different of secondary worlds, it’s why we can sympathize with characters that are nowhere near us.
Whimsy is a powerful tool. A lot of adults lose it as they age. And that’s a real shame. Without whimsy, life becomes dull and gray. Without whimsy, the problems of how to pay a mortgage or hospital bills become the reason we wake up in the morning instead of looking forward to the new experiences a day will bring.
Whimsy is important. I think most of us forget just how important it really is.
About the author:
Adam Callaway is a science fiction and fantasy author who spends his days dreaming about tentacles and secondary fantasy worlds involving magic cooks and flying monkey overlords. His work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flurb, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror and many other wonderful places. You can find out more about him on his website.
Go read his short stories. They’re really good.