Sasha Fletcher deals in extremes. In When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets But We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds, there are only a couple characters and there are a lot of characters. There is very little happening and there is a lot happening. A man (husband? boyfriend?) is telling a woman (wife? girlfriend?) with some kind of affliction (blindness?) and extended story, a fantastic run-on where birds are plucked from within stomachs, whales swallow cruise ships, clouds and waterfalls insinuate themselves into the narrative at random. The only thing that appears to be important to the storyteller is momentum and excitement, almost as if he doesn’t have time to worry about plot and character, almost as if there will be real consequences to face if he doesn’t keep the story moving, if he doesn’t keep his audience interested and invested in what’s happening. Plot lines get abandoned and new ones get created, old ones get picked up again and attempts are made to connect them with the new ones. It’s like spending an afternoon in a backyard with a kid with ADD, but in a good way, like only in the exciting and engaging way that kids with ADD can be.
When is a different kind of love story, one where the love between a man (with a thought process like that of a slinky falling down an endless set of stairs) and his audience is the only thing that isn’t heavily expanded upon. There is no explanation as to why he’s telling her these stories, you’re left to figure that one out on your own. It’s not that Fletcher is refraining from insulting your intelligence by spelling things out for you, it’s that he’s got more interesting things to think about, say, a marching band procession leading a boat-full of people out of a whales mouth and down the street.
It could be a mistake to call this book whimsical. Whimsy has a bad connotation. When a writer tries to be whimsical it can often feel like they’re jerking you around, like they’re trying to have fun and be like a child again, which can be annoying because the writer is clearly old enough to have kids of their own and they should just grow the fuck up already. When does not contain this type of whimsy.
It’s a whimsy that deals with real emotions, a whimsy that deals sex and death, with love and loneliness, fear and anxiety. Whimsy has a connotation of lightness, of airy frivolity. Fletcher deals with tangible, life-changing things in a style that is, on its face, whimsical. But underneath, it’s a voice that has a deep understanding of what it means to be human, and what it means to be alive and constantly living in the moment, always moving forward.