My weird obsession with Neil Gaiman became public knowledge ever since I started this blog in 2016. I’m currently on a major ‘life cleanse’ but had to share this post today. One of my first followers, who would soon become a very special burst of stardust to me, was RHAPSODYBOHÈME . I truly feel that some friendships have been pre-carved somewhere out there in space, waiting for you to find each other. Her blog is truly inspirational and her deep love of nature reminds me that warrior women of the earth still exist. On my worst days, I look at the photographs she shares and it fuels the dreams I’ve set for myself in the past two years. It reminds me that however beautiful my present may be, my future is going to be dazzling with more magic and beauty. She often has to read my posts about Neil Gaiman (NOT Neil Diamond,lol) and so she decided to take a chance with one of my book recommendations, The Graveyard Book. I am honored that she has done so and hope she discovers something of herself in the pages of one of my most cherished book favorites. Reading is bewitching and beguiling. And to share that gift with special people…that is irreplaceable. Please read her blog…follow her, comment…she’s used to people like me being creepy, so she really won’t mind! 🙂
I heard that reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body. Well, if that is truly the case, then I have exercised my brain for a long time indeed. Just in case I haven’t mentioned it already, it’s no secret that I love books and I developed a passion early on for […]
“Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. ‘Now.’
Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped. Then, ‘… Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly.”
― The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
It’s no big secret that I’m thoroughly mesmerized by all things Gaiman. I think I’ve made it pretty clear in many of my blog posts. I’m fascinated. I’m intrigued. I definitely have a major fan-girl crush going on there too…but let’s NOT be creepy for once. 😉
The other day, in one of my tutorial classes that I teach, a student genuinely showed concern as to why someone as “fun” and “smart” (their quotes) as moi is single and seemingly fine with that. But how do I explain to people that my imagination craves something more? That my creative side won’t allow me to settle for the first strapping, young gentleman that dares to venture through the thicket of thorns and awaken the sleeping princess. Honestly, I’d probably wake only to send a few curses his way about disturbing the excitement and enchantment of my adventures in Dreamland. You see how human interaction (with me), dating or non-dating is a complete FAIL?
Cue Neil Gaiman. A most bizarre hero (and reason for my slackening attention span in most males) that pawed his way into my head and heart a couple years ago. I’ve honestly never been the same since. Reading Gaiman is like finding portals appearing in my reality. Portals to my inner Wonderland. If he wasn’t already married, I think I’d be plotting adult-napping so that I could keep him in my personal library and have stories fed to me everyday. Of course I’d keep him well supplied with tea (I’m not culturally inappropriate after all) and have an endless supply of mythical stories of my own to keep him from getting bored. These are things that I honestly contemplate in my day. So you see how impossible it would be to answer my students’ questions without coming across as a recent escapee from a mental ward. There is no substitute once your creative buttons have been pressed.
Oh, did I mention Neil Gaiman loves cats? You had me at meow.
I thought I’d write a post, not to make my craziness known, but to expand on the deep love that Gaiman fans experience. There seems to be a mad rush to read and re-read American Gods before the television series starts painting out visuals to the original words. People tend to refer to Neil Gaiman as the ‘rock star’ of current writers, others call his following ‘cult-like’. Some are in agreement about his unmistakable contribution to literature, others are perplexed by the worth of his writing. To the second group, I can only say it’s a case of unraveling your unconscious. Gaiman gives readers one of those lovers’ boat rides that you find at fun fairs or theme parks. As you hold your lover’s hand and your boat moves across the gentle waters, entering the cave, you’re suddenly aware of something more than the fluttering of your innocent heart. There’s something lurking…at the corners of the boat…in the water…inside you. And that is what Gaiman does to people that respond to his words. He lifts veils to the Other Side. He punctures any sense of psychological resistance one may have towards all those creepy, crawly things sitting hunched over his stories. Sitting hunched deep inside you.
My Master’s thesis attempts to psychoanalytically analyse Gaiman’s Children’s Gothic Literature (Coraline, The Graveyard Book). So I get to spend my days swooning over Gaiman books at coffee-shops while gaining deep psychological insight into the human inclination to positively respond to his writing. I’m finding a pattern between Gaiman’s texts and creative impulses…but that’s another blog post for another day.
You can leave the lovers’ cave in one piece, slightly annoyed at the perception of being invaded…or, you can leave fragmented and glued together with bits of magic, in the knowledge that glitter will be falling off you every step hereafter. He imprints on his beloved readers. He offers them everything they’ve ever silently wished for but could never find in the physical plane. He’s a psychical mastermind. A dream-catcher of words that leaves the reading encounter littered with fairy dust and monster droppings.
I dare you to tread a path into his world and not find something that jars you a little. Something familiar. Something unfamiliar. Something you’ve always quite never unknown. Or have you? 😉
Weekend Book Recommendation: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
For writing advice from the man himself, visit his website www.neilgaiman.com. When I finally do pursue my PhD in the Land of Dreams (his current abode), you can rest assured there’ll be plenty of Gaiman posts in my search to get my favorite copy of Coraline signed. That and plenty of open-mouthed gawking.
Original illustration by Kamalini Govender (Of Tales & Dreams).
Things I do on a Saturday evening. Read. Chase my cat around the house. Drink coffee even though it’ll keep my awake all night…and this. Ponder Neil Gaiman stories. I am possibly a Gaiman worshiper (do those exist?) because I love the way he strings words together like magic dust teetering on a black hole. Genius.
In my post-graduate studies, I am pursuing the exploration of Gaiman’s young adult/ Children’s Literature novels. I’m particularly looking at his use of Gothic elements which brings up very pertinent and interesting questions and solutions for the psychological development of children who are exposed to such literature. Fusing Gothic elements into Children’s Literature has proven useful in getting children to face subconscious wishes or fears that require fulfillment, and that usually pop up as a neurosis or five, or problematic behaviors later on in life. By facing grotesque or unnerving characters and stories in fiction, children are finding an outlet for the things that they cannot yet make sense of. By having heroes and heroines battle the demons and lurking danger in front of their eyes as they read the words and form the stories in their imaginations, children are in fact undergoing development and learning useful ways of coping which will have a benefit in the ways that they problem-solve and face their own demons in the real world. It’s completely and utterly fascinating that I can spend my time digging through Gothic flavored stories and increase my ever growing appetite for the inner workings of the mind. *insert nerdy goth girl dance…if imaginable.
Liza Hempstock (the girl I spent my evening illustrating, above), is a character (one I quite take to) in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (2008).
Liza is a witch. And she’s dead. She has a sharp tongue and as all witches do, she bites. Yet, she was just a girl who died at sixteen due to small-minded bigots. Gaiman does not only bring attention to the plight of non-conforming women but he also highlights the fear and hatred that ensues with people who are ‘different’. Liza, after-all, was not persecuted for non-existent claims…she really was a witch, and she continues in death to be a figure that has no set place. She’s a wanderer. No home.Not even a tombstone to tell us where she is buried. She represents the diaspora found pocketed all over the world. Misunderstood, fragile within and ready to set light to the world if she so fancies. She is also a representation of tenderness as she uses her powers to help Bod, the teenage boy with the strange destiny, that lives in the graveyard.
Despite being dead, her warm heart and fiery spirit shine through in Gaiman’s tale. We begin to feel the underlying sadness of a girl put to death at such an early age, and we wonder…what could have been? If she were alive and breathing, of flesh, what possibilities could there have been for her and Bod (the boy she clearly is in love with)? Instead, Liza swallows her regret and human passions, quietly living on the brink of the living…near a tombstone that no one thought to give her except a lost Nobody (Bod’s real name by the way). Bod tries to do something kind for Liza and he gets her a tombstone to root her somewhere concrete. But if all we’ve ever known is listless wandering and limbo, is that extension of kindness enough to appease the hunger and pain that lives in our spirits.
Life can very much be like Bod and Liza’s relationship. Complicated. We miss opportunities, sometimes due to our own carelessness or because of circumstance. But memories can help us transform our current situations and can call us to action. And if memories can do that, then the imagination (which can recall those past moments) can use the thoughts produced by fiction to steer and guide us too. I can’t wait to see where my research takes me in regards to children’s fiction, the imagination and development.
Anyway, I decided it wasn’t enough to give Liza a tombstone in the novel and I took it upon myself to breathe life into her through digital illustration. I specifically chose the childish sketchiness and the slight touch of a manga-wispy feeling of the art strokes. By giving her outline the feeling that she’s in-between finished and unfinished I wanted to show the lingering nature that is Liza who is always there but not there.
Maybe I spend too much time living in Neil Gaiman novels. Maybe…