Thursday, September 24, 2009

It Takes a Graveyard

Neil Gaiman is killing me.

Sometimes, when I read a good book, I am inspired to take metaphorical pen to paper and do a bit of writing myself. “Oh,” I say to myself, “I see what that writer did there. That's great. I'll bet I could do something like that, but make it my own.” Reading, you see, fuels writing.

Then I read Neil Gaiman. “Oh, I say to myself, “that is brilliant. I could never even come close to that.” That's it, pen down, muse drops dead.

This summer I read The Graveyard Book. It has won a boatload of awards, it is brilliant, and yes, I could never even come close to it. And neither could you (unless you happen to be Neil Gaiman, which is pretty unlikely).

Written to be enjoyed by younger readers, it tells the story of Bod Owens, a boy whose parents are murdered, is adopted by ghosts and is raised in a graveyard. That's all I'm going to tell you. The rest you're going to need (and I mean that) to read for yourself. The characters are wonderful and the story is both affecting and exciting. Gaiman takes established elements of fantasy and horror and has quite a bit of fun with them. The prose is suffused with mystery, menace, and magic, balanced by humanity, friendship, and love.

I was pleased to read that the writing of this little volume took Gaiman a long time and was a lot of work. The thought that this was the product of one or two drafts would have been too much to bear. I suppose the encouraging lesson to take from that is that writing is a craft and that if you work at it you can produce good stuff. But it probably doesn't hurt to be a genius too.

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