Friday, June 29, 2007

Hanging Out With The Dream King


If you need me, Me and Neil’ll be
Hanging out with the Dream King…

-Tori Amos, Tear In Your Hand

I’ve often felt that I should have the above quote made into a sign that I can hang on my door while I’m reading. My love affair with Neil Gaiman’s writing started about 10 years ago. I was a pseudo-depressed goth kid who dressed in all black and liked to burn patchouli incense in my room. On the recommendation of friend, I picked up a copy of Good Omens and fell in love with it instantly. I was familiar with Neil’s Sandman comics and the wonderful artistry that went along with it, but I was unaware that he had published a novel!

Good Omens had a theme of angels and devils at work after the birth of the Antichrist and the coming of the apocalypse; all done in the most humorous of fashions. What I loved about this book is that it was all set in the world around me. It was in my own backyard. Not literally, but it was in someone’s backyard. It’s a theme that travels through all of Neil’s works. It’s part of what makes his work special to me. Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Good Omens, and Coraline, all take place in our own towns and cities – places we travel every day.

Neil invites us to look for the fantastic in the world around us. Sure, we may not find a London Below quite like the one that Richard Mayhew finds….We may not go on quite the adventure that Shadow does in American Gods, but the fantastic awaits us in everyday life if we invite it to find us. I would love, for example, to travel the streets of London and visit London underground with a copy of Neverwhere. Or take a long road trip around America with a copy of American Gods. Gaiman has set up the experience…all we need is to suspend disbelief and a little imagination.

It is that invitation to the fantastic that I most admire about Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has a gift that I have not yet found in any other author. There’s a sense of magic in each project that he produces. That magic might be found in a house on a rock in America, or it may be found in a more mythical land such as Faerie, or even in the walls of a girl's bedroom where wolves have been hiding. That magic is always there in Neil's books. And it's portrayed so elegantly and in such a captivating way.

I keep a book of quotes; a book that I write down favorite passages in. When I’m reading Neil Gaiman books, I rarely transcribe passages into it. The reason being, I would literally copy the whole book! I felt this way most with American Gods. There was one passage in particular that gave me chills like no other ever has and I’d like to share it with you. It ends Chapter 5 of American Gods…the chapter where Shadow is in the House on the Rock:

“Shadow heard himself laugh, over the sound of music. He was happy. It was as if the last thirty-six hours had never happened, as if the last three years had not happened, as if his life had evaporated into the daydream of a small child, riding the carousel in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on his first trip back to the States, a marathon journey by ship and by car, his mother standing there, watching him proudly, and himself sucking his melting Popsicle, holding on tightly, hoping the music would never stop, the carousel would never slow, the ride would never end. He was going around and around and around again…

Then the lights went out, and Shadow saw the gods.”

There’s magic in that passage and the scenes that follow it. There’s magic in many quotes of his.

Neil has collaborated with so many wonderful creative forces and through those collaborations has created amazing works of art. These include collaborations and inspirations with Dave McKean, Charles Vess, Terry Pratchett, Lisa Snellings-Clark, Tori Amos, Terri Windling, and a rumored collaboration now with Guillermo Del Toro to produce Death: The High Cost of Living into a motion picture!

Neil’s latest collaboration, and the original reason for this post, is with Michael Reaves, a writer for Star Trek: TNG and the author of the upcoming Star Wars: Death Star. The result of the collaboration is the new novel, Interworld. Interworld revisits Neil’s idea of duality in existence. It is the story of Joey Harker, a young boy who is particularly skilled at getting lost. He soon finds himself more lost than he’s ever been as he soon exists in more than one dimension…more than one world…and there are more than one versions of himself. Joey is a Walker, a person who is able to walk in and out of different planes of existence, and he's one of the best around, totally unbeknown to himself. He soon finds himself in worlds that are fascinating, new, and dangerous. There are forces out there though that could use a skilled Walker...it is the job of Interworld to keep these forces at bay and to keep the altiverse balanced. This is for sure the most Sci-fi of Gaiman's books and feels a little different than his books normally do. The story is told from a first person point of view which was also different…but I enjoyed it. Overall, I liked this book! It’s not my favorite Gaiman, it took awhile to get into, and I think the collaboration was a little strange; but once I finally got into it (about 100 pages in), it really grabbed me and kept hold! I think this may have been more of a Michael Reaves’ book due to the amount of sci-fi, though I’m not certain on that, so don't quote me. It's no American Gods or Neverwhere, but it's a fun read and it kept my interest. The cover art is wonderful and is done by James Jean. Oh...and I'd love to have a pet Hue!

Gaiman has proved himself to be quite a force in literature, comics, and now in cinema! I’m so happy for both him and Charles Vess for the upcoming release of the Stardust film and am extremely excited about the new illustrated hardback being released. Also on the way are Neil’s adaptation of Beowulf and in 2008 we will see Coraline brought to the screen. Interworld has also been optioned by Dreamworks animation to be made into a film. Neil has also done the English adaptation of Princess Mononoke and of course there was the beautiful collaboration between him and Dave McKean, Mirrormask in 2005.

Where the road will lead him in the future…who knows? But we can be sure the journey will be filled with beautiful words and realized dreams.

28 comments:

Bellezza said...

It's nice to have an author in which to be so captured. The person who holds such a place in my heart is Madeleine L'Engle.

Carl V. said...

Great post, as any post praising Neil Gaiman would be! Love it! I'm with you, no author has ever written in such a captivating style for me. I realize not everyone gets into him, which is okay, but almost every book he has written (and I'm really only excepting Interworld) has spoken to me in a very personal way and touched some part of whimsy or darkness or curiousity that I have inside.

The new one was okay, and I loved Hue, but it isn't one that I consider a true Gaiman book...it doesn't fit into that playground, or that backyard, that you described.

I've said before, Tears in Your Hand is my favorite Tori song. There are so many lines in that song that I love and the way her phrases express the message of the song is so creative and so powerful.

Wonderful post! Great way to start the weekend.

Chris said...

Bellezza, I have a couple of authors who captivate me the way Neil Gaiman does. Though I must say that Neil Gaiman is the most unique author that I know of. There's literally no one else like him out there. Madeleine L'Engle is wonderful. I really need to read more of her work!

Carl, There's something poetic about his words...something that just strikes home in everything I read by him.

With that said, I agree with you on Interworld...though I still enjoyed it ;). BUT, it's not a Neil Gaiman book, and that's how I enjoyed it. I really had to surrender to the fact that I was reading a collaboration that was a decent story but was not typical of his work. It really paled in comparison to everything else he's written - not in the same league. It was fun, but pulpy.

My favorite Tori song too ;) Powerful is the word I've always used to describe that song as well. Back in the day when my wall was covered in posters and magazine clippings and such, I had a little space on the wall for these lyrics.

Nymeth said...

Great post indeed! I really liked reading about how you got into Neil, and seeing the picture of your Neil shelf. Sniff, you have the pretty American Fragile Things. Over here we got the UK version :(

I enjoyed reading your review too. Like I told Carl in a comment, reading what you guys thought of the book allowed me to readjust my expectations. Your review actually reminded me of "The Homeward Bounders" by Diana Wynne Jones, which is also first person story of a boy who can walk between different worlds. It's very different from the rest of her books, and it took me a while to get into, but once I did, I loved it. I think I expect something similar from Interworld.

My favourite Tori song three!

Chris said...

Nymeth, HAHA, Quix hates the UK version too! I really don't think it's that bad...it's the one with the leaf, right? I kind of like it! Maybe it's because I don't have it :P

Yeah, for Interworld, my best advice is just to go into it to read a fun little story...nothing deep there. I enjoyed it though...like Carl mentioned somewhere among all of these posts, it reads much like a TV show...that's actually what it was supposed to be!

Tear in your Hand is just a magical little song, isn't it? I think I've mentioned this before, but it really became my favorite song when I saw her Plugged Tour in 1998. She closed the show with Tear in Your Hand and right after the lyrics "Maybe it's time to wave goodbye now" she just stopped and laid her hands on the top of her piano and it was so touching. Amazing song!

DesLily said...

I will admit I'm old.. *groan, but I'm not blind yet!

It seems Mr Gaimen is pretty easy on the eyes as well as being such a talent!

(did I just say that? *rolling eyes)

Chris said...

Oh Lord! Pat's got a crush! And he writes fantasy...she's found her dream man!

Nymeth said...

It's not that the UK cover is bad per se... it's fairly decent, I would say. But the American one is SO beautiful it pales in comparison, and it makes me resent the UK cover for even existing :P

That is so great about you getting to hear that song live... I can only imagine how emotional that moment must have been! I still hope I'll get to see her some day.

deslily: *coughNeilisincrediblyattractivecough*

DesLily said...

LOL.. just sayin' ya know? lol..

my true crushes go.. well.. older.. Gandalf, Belgarath, Master Harper Robinton, (Abbercorn).. to name a few...

DesLily said...

Nymeth:.. *clearing throat*.. he's all yours! lol!.. just sayin' I ain't blind, ya know?! LOL...

Chris said...

LOL, I'll agree with you there Nymeth, I love the US cover to Fragile Things. You've never seen Tori! We'll have to fix that soon! Let's bombard her with emails to come to a theatre near you!

Deslily, I can just see your home filled with Gandalf cardboard cutouts! LOL :p

Nymeth said...

deslily: Nah, he's all his wife's :P Just saying I do agree with you.

Chris: She has never come to my country... she's currently in Europe, but she's skipping us again :( There have been petitions online and everything, with thousands of people signing them, but nothing :(

Chris said...

Where do you live again Nymeth? Portugal? We need to remedy that! Not you living in Portugal, but her not coming there ;)

Kailana said...

bellezza: L'Engle is mine too. :) She is just not writing anymore, sadly. :(

As to the post, I am still waiting for my copy of Interworld, so I read Smoke and Mirrors today instead. It will be at least Tuesday before my books get here now because Monday is a holiday because Sunday is Canada Day.

Chris said...

Kailana, I still haven't read Smoke and Mirrors! It's next up after The Time Traveler's Wife. I hope you enjoy Interworld. It was a fun read..especially if you're looking for some summer sci-fi ;)

Bookfool said...

I just love your photos of poppets with books!! I'm not a Neil Gaiman fan, yet, but I'm open to becoming one. Kind of waiting for fall to read Neverworld, though - it seems like the perfect autumn book and a little bird told me that Carl is going to host another R.I.P. challenge, so I'm putting it off till then. :)

Chris said...

Ooh! You're going to read Neverwhere Bookfool?!! That makes me so excited! It's one of my favorites. No pressure, I promise ;) It's a dark book to warn you ahead of time, but it's so so good! I think if you see it through, you'll love it. I hope so!

Jeff S. said...

Great Neil post! Neil is one of my top 5 favorite authors too. I love the photo of all your Neil books together. I need to put all mine together like that, too. I noticed you don't own Absoltue Sandman Vol. 1 yet. It's amazing. I really hope you get a chance to snag a copy of it one day. Amazon has a great deal on it I believe. I love that cover of Anansi Boys with the spider web on the side of it, too. Is that a Sub. Press special edition? Very cool.

Love the American Gods quote, too. I look forward to your thoughts on Smoke and Mirrors. I'm not in a rush to read Interworld but I know I will get it one day for the James Jean cover alone. I'm guilty of reading most all Neil books except I haven't read Good Omens yet and I have no good excuse for it either. Me thinks I need to add it to the growing RIP challange pile. :)

Nymeth - I will say one thing about the US version of Fragile things. The cover is VERY easily damaged. You would have to go through several book shops over to find one undamaged. The paper is razor thin. I even saw some for sale this week at a Borders store with the covers gone. I think they believe they can trick people into buying them without the covers. Not very honest of them in my opinion.

I really hope Stardust does well because I think a lot of the proposed green lighting of the Death movie may hing on it. That's just my gut feeling and I may be wrong it's just what I think. I pray Stardust does well. There's a lot of competition going up against in August especially the Bourne movie opens the week before it and I really want to see it too.

Chris said...

Jeff, I want Absolute Sandman vol. 1 so bad!! I just can't afford it :( It's about $70 on Amazon..I'm debating it. The books aren't always all together..I grouped them that way for the pic. I have some on the "to be read" bookshelf, and the bigger books (mirror mask/wolves/goldfish) are seperated as well. I have a very strange filing system :p The Anansi Boys with the spider web is the UK version and I got it a couple of weeks ago at Barnes and Noble for $5.98 in the bargain books! Go check, they might have some at yours.

Good Omens is great! I laughed my ass off throughout that whole book. I haven't read it in a really long time...I'll have to read it again soon.

I have a good feeling about Stardust. I really hope it does well too. How cool would it be to get a Death movie directed by Del Toro?! Seriously!

Nymeth said...

I live in Portugal, yes. That is actually going to be remedied in September :P Not that I have many complaints, other than the Tori deprivation.

Jeff, that is too bad. At least the UK one is good and solid.

Chris, Del Toro is only going to produce the Death movie. The director will be... Neil himself! :o

Chris said...

Nymeth, Oh wow! I didn't know that Neil is actually going to direct the movie himself! Now we really do have a treat coming our way, don't we!

You're leaving Portugal soon? Moving to Brazil? sorry...being Nosy ;)

Carl V. said...

There is a line about a girl who thinks she is anorexic in Good Omens that I just died laughing over. I had to stop when reading it and go find my wife and read it to her. It was sooo great.

Carl V. said...

And...

I will admit to having a man-crush on Mr. G. Not because of the way he looks, but that voice! I was listening to Fragile Things on audio and I stopped it, called Jeff, and told him, quite truthfully, that I could listen to Neil reading the phone book to me! He has such a nice, conversational tone!

Nymeth said...

It's fine Chris! Not to Brazil, no, but to England. Both my boyfriend and I have been accepted by the University of Nottingham! It's only for a semester, but who knows, maybe in the future we'll make it permanent.

I've read somewhere that the reason why Neil directed "A Short Film About John Bolton", and also the reason why he is currently watching the filming process of Hellboy 2, was to gain experience and insight into the process of directing a movie. I think it's SO perfect that he will be doing Death. That book is extra special for me, and having him direct it is a guarantee that it will be done just right.

And I agree, Carl, he has the best voice!

Chris said...

Carl, I don't remember that line at all...I plan on doing a re-read of Good Omens soon...I'll have to keep a look out for that one ;) And yes, Neil does have quite the sultry voice...good Lord, what is this blog turning into!

Nymeth, That's incredible! Congratulations! I'm envious, but so very happy for the both of you :) Death will be such a wonderful experience...it's not very often that one can say that ;)

Jeff S. said...

Chris - " death will be such a wonderful experience.

Chris/Nymeth/Carl - I also agree that Neil directing the Death movie is what I had hoped for all along. I just never wanted to see anyone make that movie but him. I also think it's great he has Del Toro serving as an producer.

Chris - Thanks for the news on snagging the UK version of Anansi Boys at B&N. I'll have to look for one the next time I'm in there. Normally I shop Borders just because that's only 5 miuntes from my house and the B&N is about 20 minutes away which isn't bad really at all.

Nymeth - Congrats to you and your boyfriend's acceptance at the University in the UK. I wish you both the best with the move and school this fall.

Carl V. said...

A Short Film About John Bolton was really fun.

Chris said...

I've never seen it! I'll have to check it out.