2013 April Poem
A Gaiman poem with which to kickoff National Poetry Month.
2012 May Commencement Speech
Twenty minute video of Neil Gaiman’s inspiring commencement speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in May 2012. This speech will be published in book form under the title ‘Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art’ speech. by Harper Collins in May 2013.
A story mostly told in pictures (for beginning readers) about Chu, a young panda bear, and his mighty sneezes. During a visit to China, a panda sat on Neil Gaiman’s lap; this experience inspired Chu’s Day.
Short story about Cthulhu
Copyright 1998. Christmas 2012 reprint on tor.com. Cthulhu first appeared in print in 1928 courtesy of H.P. Lovecraft. Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and Alan Moore (The Watchmen) are among the comic / manga authors who incorporate Cthuluian mytholody into their works.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Published in 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts as a much more prosaic, introspective adult novel before quickly segueing into recalled memories that open the barriers between ordinary humans in a Sussex, England village and the ancient ‘others’. The novel (novella?) remains classified as adult fiction but should be shared with teens and with mature preteens – the story includes a suicide, an attempted murder, and extramarital sex… but these scenes are described from the perspective of a fairly naive, book-smart seven-year old boy. Set aside a few hours to read the book from cover to cover.
Gaiman reuses little bits from his earlier works. For example, in both this story and his 2008 The Graveyard Book a young girl / woman named L. Hempstock with supernatural powers helps the main character, an adolescent boy, escape the bad guys; in The Graveyard Book the boy escapes a locked room by, from the inside, poking the key out of the lock on to a sheet of paper slid under the door and then pulling the sheet with the key back under the door while in The Ocean at the End of the Lane the boy tries that trick but finds that the villain has pocketed the key.
Per usual, Gaiman also includes a number of allusions to both real and fictional works and historical events. I particularly liked the references to the (fictional) old girls’ books Sandie Sees it Through and Pansy Saves the School. I also enjoyed the farmhouse food descriptions such as “The custard was sweet and creamy in my mouth,m the dark swollen currants in the spotted dick were tangy in the cake-thick chewy blandness of the pudding…” grounding the story in mid-20th century England.
Gaiman includes a lovely kitten with very unusual blue-green eyes and an unusual heritage. At the end of the story, the boy narrates “At night she would wait beneath the bed until the lights were turned out, then she would wait beneath the bed until the lights were turned out, then she would accommodate herself on the pillow beside me, grooming my hair, and purring, so quietly as never to disturb my sister. I would fall asleep with my face pressed into her fur, while her deep electrical purr vibrated softly against my cheek.”
2012 December 20: Commentary in Tor.com on early reveal artwork.
The Graveyard Book
First published in 2008, The Graveyard Book was reinterpreted as a two-volume graphic novel in 2014. As with the Sandman series, the artist and thus the style shifts from section to section. Bod, Silas, and other characters are reasonably consistently depicted across the volumes but I nevertheless found the shifts in Volume 1 somewhat jarring – accentuated by my preference for the art of the first section and my relative dislike of the rounded glossiness of Chapter 3 in which we meet Miss Lupescu. (The shifts in Volume 2 were less obtrusive.) My recommendation is to read the text-only version and then at some later point read the graphic novel version. I cried a bit at the end of both versions – perhaps even more so over the graphic novel version with the visual of Mistress Owens singing “Sleep, my little babby” to Bod one last time.
For the scientists in the house, here’s a snippet of dialog from Volume 1 in which the adolescent Scarlett explains her father’s profession, particle physics, to Bod: “Well, there’s atoms, which is things that is too small to see… That’s what we’re made of. And there’s things that’s smaller than atoms. And that’s particle physics.” The narrator then observes, “Bod nodded and decided that Scarlett’s father was probably interested in imaginary things.” (The ‘imaginary’ being a reference to Scarlett’s father’s belief that Bod was Scarlett’s imaginary friend.)
The Macabray reference to the Danse Macabre (in Volume 1) makes a neat connection to the black plague outcome of Lizzie Hempstock’s curse.
References: The Cat in the Hat is Bod’s first book. One of the ghouls introduces himself as the 33rd President of the United States; that’s Harry S. Truman. In Volume 2 the teenaged Scarlett says “My Mum’s going to go spare.” ‘go spare‘ is a British pre-WWII meaning ‘go berserk’. ‘nimeni’ (Miss Lupescu’s nickname for Bod) means ‘nobody’ in Romanian.
A standalone novel of London Above and London Below: denizens of the latter are, for the most part, invisible to the former – even when they occupy the same space. The implicit commentary on the overlooked and dispossessed is all the stronger for not clearly being deliberate. Likewise Gaiman leaves it to the reader to interpret his intentions in presenting schizophrenia as a London Above diagnosis of those who see and interact with the otherwise invisible.
Readers familiar with London and with mythology will likely more quickly connect to the characters and settings – but Gaiman’s descriptions are sufficient to effectively carry the unfamiliar through the story. Though the novel is classified under adult fiction, it’s suitable for down to older pre-teens – notwithstanding the hero’s London Above life as an actuarial office drone, a full-fledged adult. (Just because publishers promote works with school settings and/or adolescents with issues doesn’t mean that teens don’t enjoy a broader range. In this case teens – and adults – should appreciate Gaiman’s subtle message that life doesn’t acquire meaning upon achieving milestones such as a job, apartment, and a spouse; purpose is a consequence of our choices to make a difference. If Gaiman had not provided a way to acquire meaning, then the novel would have been a depressing dystopia – another theme that publishers are currently heavily promoting.)
Summary: a great read!
The Sandman Endless Nights is a postscript of sorts to the ten volume graphic novel series The Sandman written by Neil Gaiman. This volume consists of seven chapters, one for each of the Endless. Neil Gaiman and letterer Todd Klein are joined by a different artistic team for each chapter – which makes for some discontinuity but which also better highlights the different natures of each of the Endless. The foreword written by Gaiman provides motivation and context for each of the stories that follows. Most of the chapters are short stories with a plot either illustrating an Endless’ interaction in human affairs (Desire and Death) or explaining a bit more of an Endless’ history (Dream and Destruction); in contrast Despair’s chapter is a not a story so much as ruminations on the nature of Despair. The latter does not make for comfortable reading, but as is indicated in the text and pictures, Despair is a part of the human experience. This is one of Gaiman’s works that takes longer to absorb and offers many “what does he mean?” moments.