If you read this blog regularly, then you’ve probably guessed I’m a sucker for an imagination that intrigues me. The reason I can’t get enough of folks like Guillermo del Toro, C.S. Lewis, Susanna Clarke, J.K. Rowling, Alan Moore or Hayao Miyazaki, is because their imaginations are so rich and beautiful. Their ability to dream up new worlds, creatures, and magics don’t provide mere escapism, they actually help us deal with, understand, and engage our world better. In their stories, we can learn to ask better questions. Their curiosity, which manifests in fantastical worlds of wonder and adventure, can stimulate our own curiosity, that is, if we are looking closely. I love so many imaginations, and I am so happy that our ability to share information at this point in history means I can enter into their dreamworlds with the turn of a page or the click of a few computer keys.
Yet, of all the creators whose imaginations stoke my own fires of curiosity and wonder, there is one who stands above the rest. Mr. Neil Gaiman, writer of so very many wonderful things, including The Sandman graphic novels, Coraline, Stardust, American Gods,and MirrorMask.
Gaiman’s work is dark and beautiful, most often a macabre dance between death and redemption, horror and joy, all the time helping the reader discover that these things are never opposites or enemies, but siblings, or even lovers. At times, his work is adults only, while much of his work is actually “children’s literature.” Yet, the themes and questions that seem to fascinate Gaiman remain consistent throughout, and he has a masterful grasp on the reality that, when written well, children’s literature can be as meaningful and formative for adults as for kids. Gaiman understands his craft well, not just using story toward powerful ends, but also writing about story, and how storytelling changes both the storyteller and the hearer/reader in profound and mysterious ways.
If you’ve never read Gaiman, his collection of short stories, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
probably wouldn’t be a bad place to start. I just finished it last week, and at the end of each story or poem, I would be physically unable to put the book down. I simply had to move on to the next offering.
Sherlock Holmes, the Harlequin, teenage alien tourists, some sort of zombie/vampire hybrid, sabertooth tigers, hell, ghost kids, and a world in which fantasy and reality is reversed… this book has it all. Part of me wants to start a book club just to go through this book, to ruminate over all the brilliant moments and hold all the ideas and questions up to the light.
If you are in the mood for some wonderfully dark and imaginative storytelling, then you should most definitely give this book a try.