Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Saddest of the Sad Views

Silas said, “Out there, the man who killed your family is, I believe, still looking for you, still intends to kill you.”

Bod shrugged. “So?” he said. “It’s only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”

“Yes.” Silas hesitated. “They are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

Neil Gaiman, in “The Graveyard Book”

Many years ago, I read “Good Omens.” After that, there were two paths to choose. Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett. I chose the latter. And have been happier for it.

As talented as Gaiman is, I’ve always found his vision limiting. Pratchett always approached the world with wonder. Gaiman, with caution. Neither make much of many of the things I hold dear, but leave it to Gaiman to turn out an idea like what’s quoted above: Hopelessness. Stasis. Infinite boredom. Maybe because Pratchett always wrote about the Now, leaving the Then for the Nac Mac Feegle, believing their lives to be dead now, living later. But there’s always hope in Partchett’s tales, whereas Gaiman leaves the future bleak as trees in winter.

In reading The Graveyard Book, comparisons are inevitable. There’s a clear Lemony Snicket vibe here, with the orphaned Bod being hunted by mysterious murderers, and a mysterious organization protecting him, or at least fighting against the other group. But Snicket is a more clever writer in this vein. And Snicket is entirely more menacing and is in on the hopelessness joke with the reader. Gaiman’s graveyard is filled with milquetoasts protecting a milquetoast kid from a milquetoast murderer. A fine tale, but there are better ones out there.

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