Title and author: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Dave McKean.
Genre: Fantasy fiction suitable for teens but equally enjoyable for adults.
What led you to pick up the book? It had ‘Neil Gaiman’ written on the cover.
Summarize the plot without revealing the ending . One night a man named Jack breaks into a house and kills an entire family…nearly. A toddler escapes and winds up in the cemetery at the end of the road, where he is taken in and raised by the resident Dead.
What did you like most? Learning what ‘life’ is like for the Dead and what abilities they have. His relationship with Silas, his father figure, was touching. I also liked that the reader was left to work out the… race? of one characters–Gaiman knows his readers are intelligent.
What did you dislike? That there wasn’t enough of it.
Thoughts on the main character : Each chapter has Bod (short for Nobody Owens) a few years older so we get to see his progression towards adulthood, which felt true.
Share a favourite scene. The scene beyond the ghoul gate (Ghulheim) was particularly inventive–it put me in mind of Neverwhere. The bizarre physics and characters were pure Gaiman. The danse macabray chapter was great fun, as well. There was a suspense as to where the on Earth the chapter was going and why.
Opinion on the ending. It worked and didn’t bring a tear to my eye at all. Nope.
Overall rating: 10/10. If you’re a Gaiman fan and haven’t read it because it’s ‘for kids’ or something, read it anyway.
I took a little unscheduled break due to a few things.
First: my dog had an episode of vestibular syndrome , which is vertigo. It’s scary to watch and it can look like a stroke but it’s highly treatable and goes away and probably won’t return. Sometimes people put down their dogs because they think it’s a stroke when it’s something that would resolve in a few days or a week. Please tell any dog owners you know about vestibular syndrome. Dogs are great. This one is mine:
Next, very happily, I started writing again. There will be an entire post about that next Wednesday. Short version: when you have loads of ideas for stories, you have to write down all of those ideas at that time because if you ignore them, they get stroppy and they will go away.
Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in a day and writing other things doesn’t leave an enormous amount of time to write blog stuff, because I don’t want to just poop out blog posts. I do actually care about what I post here, believe it or not.
Then: My migraines decided to have a passel of their friends (headaches) over for parties every day, all day. Several days a week of nauseated headaches and migraines makes for a fun existence, let me tell you. It’s like having a reptile trying to hatch its way out of your skull, but it doesn’t have a beak, so it can’t just crack your skull open and be done with it (at a certain point, you’d be fine with that) so it just pushes and pushes and turns you into an Existentialist. I mean, really, does life have a point? We really are just put here to fritter away and die, right?
This went on for many weeks, as I hate going to the doctor (I always feel like I’m wasting their time and whatever it is will resolve itself on its own). But a person can only take so much Sumatriptin and being unproductive due to waking up with a headache and deciding to simply not get out of bed that day, if THAT’S what it was going to be like.
Went to the doctor, got Topamax. Or, as people who take it call it, Dopamax, because wow.
That seems to have lessened, thankfully. I mean, I’m sitting upright and typing without having my husband holding my eyes open. One of the other side effects is appetite suppression, so hopefully that will work out.
In there I took a couple of days to do jury duty for the first time which was an interesting experience. I wasn’t chosen, which was a bummer, but maybe next time.
And finally, I’ve upgraded my Ubuntu machine to 13.04 and now my wireless doesn’t work and I just…don’t feel like dealing with it. So I’m on my Windows machine for the time being. The good bit is I’m surrounded by my macabre geeky office stuff, the bad news is this Windows computer is effing slow and this chair does bad things to my back. Whinge, whine, moan, complain, first world problems, first world problems.
But I’m back!
For fans of Bosch and Dante, I present Nicolas-Antoine Taunay’s ‘The Triumph of the Guillotine in Hell’. It’s a large image so go ahead and click on it and take in the full view of the… yeah. It’s… special.
I enjoy the two-headed snake and the winged guy in the middle and the skeletonised bird thing in the right upper quadrant. And there’s some really interesting things happening over on the left upper quadrant, as well. The demon that’s catching a lift on the back of the …other demon’s…demon… isn’t very horizontal so they must not be going very fast so I wonder how they’re staying in the air. Physics must work differently there.
Just below them there are a couple wings guys, one of which has a big horn and he looks so bummed out. Perhaps he’s going to play a concert for the big guy himself and he’s always so judgmental and it’s such a drag . Or maybe the horn is really heavy. Or maybe he just has bad posture.
In in the middle upper part, I’m curious about the dude allowed to bring his paints and easel with him, as you’d think a note pad and pen would be much quicker when tasked to capture the everlasting torments of eternity. (Either that or someone allowed him to grab his tools when he was being dragged to Hell, which was nice of the dragger.) And this was painted in the 1800s but I swear that’s a member of Devo with the painter guy.
But my absolute favourite people are the ones by the skeletonised bird thing because they’re just humans, but they are not being tormented in any way. They’re just hanging around. Just being casual. The guy and his woman with their backs to us look like they’re laughing. ‘Oh ho, another jolly day in Hell! What fun it is to be young and French and dead and… haha!’ They’re clothes aren’t even mussed. Do they have tailors down there?
And then there’s Hell’s version of Statler and Waldorf up there in the very far upper right. You just know they’re cracking the filthiest jokes in all of Christendom.
I don’t think Taunay was a fan of the ol’ close shave, overall, though.
My Google-fu is lacking at the best of times and it’s really failing me now, (which is why I’m being a smart-arse rather than telling you anything useful) as I can’t find anything to help me out with this painting. I’d love to know more about it so if you know something or know somewhere I can look, please leave a comment. And thank you.
[And because we live now, you can get this piece of social commentary as a heart-shaped Christmas ornament from Zazzle because of course or an iPhone case . I mean, why not, right? It would be like putting a heart-shaped ornament on your tree commemorating lethal injection or something... What would that look like? The bed they strap the condemned to, perhaps attached to your tree by the three IV lines they insert in their veins? Merry freakin Christmas. I'm macabre but there's a line, people.]
Bette Midler has taught a very important thing.
I never want to be famous.
I wanted to be a STAR!! from the time I was 12. I felt this was the best way to meet celebrities and they were the people I wanted to be with/like. They were always perfect, looked great, were worshiped by millions and had loads of money. Then I talked my mother into paying for VIP tickets to a party Madame Midler was attending so I could meet her. We were not wealthy and those tickets were expensive. I’ve only very recently realized what my mother sacrificed to buy those tickets so I could meet my hero of many years.
Anyway, we went to the party and there she was. She treated me like garbage. I was nineteen, I had adored her for many years and she looked at me like I was muck on her shoe. This was at a function she was being paid to be at to meet her fans. I was within touching distance of her at Disneyworld a few years prior and didn’t say a world to her because she was on vacation and I didn’t want to bother her, but I felt I was justified this time. This time two thousand dollar tickets to be at the party were involved.
She came into the room thronged by paparazzi (and this was when her career was in a slump). Once she was finally by herself I tried to tell her what a fan I was–that I had come from North Carolina to New York just to see her, but she treated me like scum. I was stunned. It was inconceivable to me that a person I so admired could be such a jerk.
Once my mother and I were back at our crummy hotel I fell apart, crying and so on. I told my mother I couldn’t wait to be famous so I could treat people like crap, too. My mothers’ response: “Most people didn’t even get to touch her coat.” Yes, I got to touch her coat. That was supposed to be worth the two thousand dollars my mother paid.
Once I’d recovered I realized that I didn’t ever want that to be my life. I never wanted to have a life that wouldn’t allow me to go anywhere without being surrounded by the flashing of cameras. I have much more sympathy for celebrities (and am completely baffled by the people who’d court that insanity) and I’m grateful to have seen what being famous entailed before I sacrificed my life in the name of infamy.
I do hope she got what she wanted and I’m grateful for what she taught me.
And I haven’t bought an album or seen a film of hers since that evening–I simply can’t support a person who has so lost touch with her sense of humanity.
This is the first time I’ve written/spoken about that event, which was ten years ago, because it’s still so painful to me. I usually don’t think I’m worth a whole lot, but being treated as garbage by one’s idol is difficult to admit/look at, even a decade on.
Still, I’m grateful for it. I could have spent my life straining to be like her, only to either fail or get what I wanted and be a total bitch. And I can be a bitch without killing myself, thankyouverymuch.
[This is a post from a previous blog. Original post date: 8 October, 2007]
This week, reviews of comic adaptations of a Neil Gaiman novel and two of his short stories.
The comic adaptation of Neverwhere written by Mike Carey (who also did the incredible Lucifer) and illustratied by Glenn Fabry was overseen by Gaiman and was excellent.
Due to being a decent human being, an English everyman schlub is pulled into a parallel dimension that exists below London. The story is of him trying to help a young woman learn who killed her family and to get back to his life in London Above. It’s a bit Wizard of Oz in that way, except it takes a great deal more than clicking his heels together to return home. The story (and illustrations) are incredibly imaginative and entertaining.
It’s difficult to speak to how much was left out, because it’s been a decade since I read the novel and watched the TV miniseries, but all the big points were there and the illustrations more closely captured what was in my head than television could do. It’s nine issues and I highly recommend it.
Only the End of the World Again was a short story written for Oni Press that was eventually collected in Smoke and Mirrors . Written by Gaiman, it was adapted to comic by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by Troy Nixey and coloured by Matthew Hollingsworth for the collection. It’s a new take on the Elder Gods of Lovecraft and casts a very unlikely hero–in the form of a werewolf–to try to avert world-ending disaster…again. Some of the art was nightmare fuel , which was appropriate for the story. Still … shudder.
’Murder Mysteries’ began as a short story written for horror anthology Midnight Graffiti and was collected in Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors in the late 80s. In 2002, Gaiman and P. Craig Russell adapted it into a graphic novel. Set before the creation of the universe, it’s about the first murder and explains why Lucifer the angel chose such a drastic career change. The illustrations are incredible and definitely helped, in terms of picturing how angels created everything and what the universe would look like prior to that.
I was originally attracted to The Bleeding House by its poster. There wasn’t a half-naked, sweaty girl looking terrified on it, nor did it have rusty implements of torture on. It didn’t seem to be standard fare, and it wasn’t.
First, there were no big names in the cast. This is excellent because it’s easier to believe a story if you don’t immediately recognise people (it occurred to me later that the lead male had been fantastic in Galaxy Quest, but at the time he was just a creepy guy in a very neat suit.)
Second, I had no idea where the plot was going. When you watch a lot of films it’s difficult to be too surprised, but this one kept me guessing more than most.
Those two things can give a thriller a head-start, as it were, because you’re not instantly thinking about the other things you’ve seen the big actors in that weren’t so formulaic and hoping they bought something nice with all the formulaic money so they can get back to making films that aren’t crap.
But back to The Bleeding House.
The plot revolves around a family, the Smiths, that has been ostracized (or possibly is under self-imposed exile) from the nearby town. The reasons become clearer throughout the film, but there’s clearly something off about at least one of the family members. [If you like that sort of setup, I highly recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.]
A genteel Southern stranger has car trouble and asks for their help. Never let genteel Southern strangers in your house. (Or the non-genteel sort, either, as those always end up being inbred cannibals.) And then the fun begins!
I don’t want to say more about the plot; just watch it. And if you’ve seen it, please leave a comment below.
I’m hitting up my fav bookshop Saturday week and then I’m stopping by the used bookshop a couple blocks over. It has 35,000 books. I’m making a preparatory list. This is war, people. Because when I go into a bookshop I turn into a stereotypical man–I refuse to ask for directions. I can find my own goddamn books, thank you. My two X chromosomes give me the ability to find a book in a bookshop no matter the size. (I kid you not–I have never been in a book store where, after much searching and finally asking for assistance, has the desired book been located. If I can’t find it, it’s not there.) I will walk into that bookshop with my Miquelrius note-book and find something to bring home. Where I’ll put them is anyone’s guess. See next paragraph
Part of my massive cleaning effort this weekend involved getting rid of several books I’ll never read and rearranging some shelves, which means my bookcases are now tidier than they’ve been in ages. It also means my books fit their shelves perfectly and there’s no room for more. So I must obtain new books to make everything uneven again, of course. It’s as if I have some kind of constitutional aversion total order. I need just a little disorder.
[This is a post from a previous blog. Original post date: 9 September 2007]
This page from the A.V. Club talks about films too painful to watch twice. Some should probably be too painful to watch once, really.
The title of the piece made me think of, in order: The Magdalene Sisters, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Caligula, The Piano Teacher, and Requiem for a Dream.
The only one of those on the list is the last one. The two others on the list I’ve seen are Safe and Boys Don’t Cry. I can definitely understand Boys Don’t Cry, but Safe? I found that to be an interesting and not at all painful film to watch.
What would you add to the list?
[This is a repost from a previous blog. Original post date: 4 October, 2007]
I really dug the work and wanted to share some with you. There’s photography and some types of manipulation and perhaps painting, but it’s often difficult to tell what was actually there and what was added later. That blending makes the artwork stronger and gives the viewer more the think about. It’s really interesting work.
The Saints and Martyrs series is evocative. It looks fairly straightforward at first glance, but the more you look, the more there is to see. Some pieces are a combination of Hellraiser/BDSM and classical beauty. Perhaps for the person who is spiritual but accepting of the darker side of humanity, as well.
But his urban series is excellent as well.
The photographs of Chernobyl are particularly poignant.
Then there’s this impressive tattoo:
In my quest for new macabre content I happened upon Dancing with Death on Facebook. The about section has this to say: We’re a Halloween Culture group devoted to the darker side of life, featuring incredibly graphic news, video, image & movie galleries, art, reviews—anything to get your heart pumping!
This sounded right up my street so I contacted the site and, happily, Christian Baloga, head admin of Dancing with Death, agreed to answer some questions.
When/why did you start your Facebook page?
I created the Dancing with Death Facebook page on July 17, 2012, however, the original gathering started back in 2005 on Myspace. Then I called it Halloween Town.
In the beginning, I was inspired to create a gathering of like-minded individuals interested in exploring the darker side of life and encompassing the spirit of Halloween.
I was also nearing the completion of my first book Wake the Wicked: Thirteen Twisted Tales and wanted to gather an audience who’d appreciate the book for its dark themes.
What sort of subject matter do you cover?
Dancing with Death includes any subject matter under the incredible umbrella of Halloween—especially things traditional society may frown upon. This includes the strange, the macabre, graphic news, videos, images, and art. All uncensored.
Do you have a website or Twitter account related to your page?
What would you like to achieve with it?
I wish to celebrate the spirit of Halloween year-round with as many like-minded people as possible. For me, Halloween is a way of life, a state of mind, and I know there are others who feel the same. It’s the time of year when you can be somebody else, dress as the opposite sex or your favorite cartoon character; you can go crazy and society accepts it. This assertive transformation, this experimentation and expression of living life without repression—no matter how outlandish—is explored and accepted every day on Dancing with Death.
Another important thing I’d like to achieve is to gain more support and attention to avant-garde artists who aren’t afraid to get their work out to the public—despite what is acceptable by mainstream society. My hope is that we can all support and influence each other.
For people who enjoy your page, what other sites would you recommend?
The Macabre and Beautifully Grotesque is one of my favourites, as well. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your page?
I wish more people would ask me to share macabre content they find or create! If you’d like something posted on Dancing with Death, don’t be afraid to message me—especially if you’re a creator of dark art, music, books, fashion, whatever! All I ask is for it to be high quality, macabre-related content.
I think that’s a wish we all share, Christian. Thank you for the terrific content and thank you for the terrific interview. I’ll see you on the Facebook.
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