Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Magic of Neil Gaiman

Those of you who read my Favorite Passages post from this last Thursday know that one of my New Year Reading Resolutions is to plunge into the waters of Neil Gaiman's novels. I started off the year with one of his story collections, Smoke and Mirrors. It did not disappoint. Some of the pieces were just kind of bizarre, and as a newbie in the fantasy world, I didn't really get them. But the ones rooted in strong human emotion really stuck with me. Stories like "Troll Bridge," "Looking for the Girl," and the sad-but-hilarious "The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories" get at the heart of disappointment, regret, and bitterness. I was also a big fan of "Mouse," "Foreign Parts," and "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale," all of which are good places to start if you're a Gaiman novice. Meanwhile, the strange but beautiful "Murder Mysteries," a detective story taking place in a pre-human city of archangels, completely hooked me from beginning to end. I couldn't get enough of it, to be honest.

I tend to forget how good Gaiman is at horror. Last month, I mentioned how deeply disturbing I found the images in Coraline to be. Smoke and Mirror's final story, "Snow, Glass, Apples," a horrifying take on the Snow White tale, picked up on that same disorienting break between reality and fairy tales. It was surprisingly intriguing.

Then, of course, there's the story Gaiman sneaks into his Introduction, a short real-world-based-fantasy called "The Wedding Present," which carries the most heart-wrenching finale in the entire book. Only a guy as nonchalant as Gaiman could bury such a story in a section most people never touch when they read a book. I love it.

Anyway, a good start to Gaimanpalooza. A good friend recently lent me some Gaiman novels to check out, and I just bought a copy of American Gods, probably his most famous adult novel, so I should be set for the next few months!

1 comment:

  1. I read American Gods as a college freshman. I loved it, but I don't think I was ready for it. I was not a clever man back then. My friend Tim wrote a blog about American Gods after he read it. It's a great quote and it's a funny post. Check it out if you're interested (link at bottom).

    Have you read Sandman? I read it as a senior in high school. I probably was not ready for it then either, but I got much more out of it than I did American Gods. Gaiman does such wonderful things with it. My favorite character is a man who does not age named Hob (I'm almost positive that's his name).