Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kid Goth: Neil Gaiman's Fantasies

Thanks again to the PGS blog reader who sent in this link, Kid Goth: Neil Gaiman's Fantasies, from The New Yorker. An excerpt:

Gaiman, who is forty-nine and English, with a pale face and a wild, corkscrewed mop of black-and-gray hair, is unusually prolific. In addition to horror, he writes fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, and apocalyptic romps, in the form of novels, comics, picture books, short stories, poems, and screenplays. Now and then, he writes a song. Gaiman’s books are genre pieces that refuse to remain true to their genres, and his audience is broader than any purist’s: he defines his readership as “bipeds.” His mode is syncretic, with sources ranging from English folktales to glam rock and the Midrash, and enchantment is his major theme: life as we know it, only prone to visitations by Norse gods, trolls, Arthurian knights, and kindergarten-age zombies. “Neil’s writing is kind of fey in the best sense of the word,” the comic-book writer Alan Moore told me. “His best effects come out of people or characters or situations in the real world being starkly juxtaposed with this misty fantasy world.” The model for Gaiman’s eclecticism is G. K. Chesterton; his work, Gaiman says, “left me with an idea of London as this wonderful, mythical, magical place, which became the way I saw the world.” Chesterton’s career also serves as a warning. “He would have been a better writer if he’d written less,” Gaiman says. “There’s always that fear of writing too much if you’re a reasonably facile writer, and I’m a reasonably facile writer.”

Gaiman’s two most recent novels, “Anansi Boys” (2005) and “The Graveyard Book” (2008)—a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” set in a graveyard—débuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in their respective categories, adult and children’s literature. Yet Gaiman remains somewhat marginal. The Times of London recently referred to him as “the most famous writer you’ve never heard of.” The New York Times waited to review “The Graveyard Book” for several months after its publication, by which time it had won the 2009 Newbery Medal, one of the highest honors in children’s fiction, and been on the best-seller list for eighteen weeks. “I have at this point a critic-proof career,” Gaiman said. “The fans already knew about the book.”

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