Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Graveyard Book

Well, what a pleasant surprise! I've been letting Neil Gaiman read me to sleep at night with his View from the Cheap Seats (I listened to it and blogged about it back when I was doing time at the nursing home/rehab unit but am totally ready to hear it again. In fact, he mentions so many intriguing books and authors that I'm probably going to have to get myself a print copy so I can take notes -- but I digress . . .) and his acceptance speech when The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Award reminded me that I had a copy lurking somewhere.

Turns out, it's an unread copy. I'm not sure what the circumstances were -- did I buy it and shelve it because I was in the middle of other things? Whatever, it's a nice surprise.

It's a riff on Kipling's Jungle Book and Mowgli , the boy raised by wolves and taught (or threatened) by other animals in the jungle. The Graveyard Book is the story of Bod, a boy living in a graveyard and tended by a lively -- make that a friendly contingent of ghosts. He is guarded by a vampire, mentored by a werewolf, befriended by a witch, captured by ghouls, and pursued by the man Jack, the same man that killed Bod's family when Bod was just a toddler.

It should be terrifying. I mean, this is a children's book, for goodness sake. But look at the fairy tales many of us grew up on -- the evil witches, the children abandoned in the forest, the casual cruelty . . . and then they cut off his head . . .

In his acceptance speech, Gaiman talks about his boyhood as an avid reader, a haunter of the library:

". . .fiction was an escape from the intolerable, a doorway into impossibly hospitable worlds where things had rules and could be understood; stories had been a way of learning about life without experiencing it, or perhaps of experiencing it as an eighteenth-century poisoner dealt with poisons, taking them in tiny doses, such that the poisoner could cope with ingesting things that would kill someone who was not inured to them. Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it."

The book is wonderful -- full of wonder -- with an ending that left me with a smile on my lips and a lump in my throat -- a perfect ending, in other words.

Now I just have to get the listening version . . . because hearing Gaiman read it will make it all the better.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I read that book when I was recovering from foot surgery and had lots of time to read. It was such a different book! It was my introduction to Neil Gaiman. I never made that connection to Mowgli and the wolves, though. Interesting!

Vicki Lane said...

I didn't make the connection either but read that Gaiman had called The Jungle Book an inspiration for this work. I think the opening is a bit off-putting -- but continued reading is rewarding. It may be why it's been sitting on the shelf all this time -- I may have started it and put it down. But now, having read so much Gaiman, I trust him to pull it all together in a satisfactory way.

NCmountainwoman said...

Won't you just love reading that with Josie when she is ten or so? Perfect intro to scary books. I recommend another book for her. "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls." One-page stories with picture of a famous woman. Factual but reads like a fairy tale. It started as a kickstarter and took off like wildfire. A second edition is coming out soon. Great book for powerful girls like Josie is destined to be.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks for the book tip -- going in search of it now!