Storytime with Neil Gaiman
October 8, 2008 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman's latest work, The Graveyard Book, is a kind of undead Jungle Book, with a man-child being raised by various ghosts and ghouls rather than animals. He's been the whole thing a chapter at a time on each stop of his American promotional tour, and posting the videos online (and blogging about it of course), which means that with tonights reading the entire thing will be available online.
posted by Artw (38 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The Seattle reading (chapter 4, The Witch's Headstone, which had been previously published in Fragile Things) was very good, even if my brother was late with the tickets so that I got a crappy seat.

The rest of the book is also very good, at least as far as I've gotten. I haven't had much free time lately.
posted by Caduceus at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2008

I've been saving this for stolen moments, so I'm only partway through chapter 3. It's very very nice. Seems a little scary for children, what with the protagonist's whole family being murdered at the start, but nice nonetheless.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:37 AM on October 8, 2008

That actually seems to happen rather a lot in children's stories.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

i'm sure his old school fans are thrilled. after three whole books without a single goth character between them, they must be relieved.
posted by shmegegge at 9:41 AM on October 8, 2008

True. At my bookstore it was in the 9 -12 section, and by 12 I was deep into Stephen King, so I guess it depends on the child. The first few pages are definitely hardcore nightmare fuel though. It hasn't been as bad since, although where I am Bod just got pushed down a hole by some ghouls, so it could be trending darker.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2008

Does Gaiman's stuff get any better than American Gods? I haven't read anything else, but I wasn't very impressed.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:54 AM on October 8, 2008

I think this is like Coraline- adults will think it's nightmare fuel for kids, but kids will eat it up as a grand adventure story.

When I was a kid, there was only one book that creeped me out- Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Reading about mass suicides of all those over the age of 12 (I think that was the cutoff) freaked out my 10 year old self.

I think visual media has much greater effect. For instance, Do Not leave an eight year old alone to watch the movie version of Watership Down. Trust me on this one. Of course, when I showed it to a girlfriend, she couldn't see why I had been so frightened as a little kid.

adamschneider- it depends on what you didn't like about American Gods. If it was the structure, the side stories, etc. then yes. If it was the actual writing style, then I doubt you'd like the rest of his stuff. Take a look at the recordings, see if you like them. If you do, check out Coraline.
posted by Hactar at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2008

adamschneider- Your Mileage May Vary. My introduction to Gaiman was through comics, so I’ll always compare his work back to Sandman, and I have to say he’s made the transition to prose very well (though TBH his wordy style was half way there already). American Gods read pretty well to me, except the main characters name was stupid and maybe it was a bit too close to material he’d already used for Sandman. I’m kind f guessing that if you didn’t like that you won’t like his other stuff, but I’d maybe check out one of his short story collections to see him writing in a range of styles.
posted by Artw at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2008

Hactar – You’d love Plague Dogs!
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on October 8, 2008

adamschneider, I think his work is kind of all over the place both in terms of genre and quality. I really enjoyed American Gods, but have strongly disliked some of his other stuff (like Stardust). So, maybe give something else of his a try that's not trying to be like American Gods - go for Good Omens or the comics rather than Neverwhere.
posted by marginaliana at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2008

Heh. I’ve not read Neverwhere, due to the unfortunate experience of watching it on TV. That’s me put off it for life.
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2008

adamschneider -- American Gods is actually my least favorite book of his. Try "Neverwhere".
posted by OolooKitty at 10:33 AM on October 8, 2008

I thought Neverwhere was much better than American Gods but marginaliana is dead on with checking out Good Omens. If you're going to dip your toe into the comics, try Death: The High Cost of Living before you bite off the mammoth that is Sandman.

I also liked the Gaiman-penned Alice Cooper-inspired graphic novel The Last Temptation.
posted by djeo at 10:36 AM on October 8, 2008

American Gods is deeply flawed, yes, but the sequel, Anansi Boys, is one of the best Douglas Adams novels I've read since Adams died. Seriously, check it out even if you didn't like the first.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2008

With apologies to Mizuki Shigeru.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2008

>He's been the whole thing a chapter at a time on each stop

Oh man, he'd better be careful he doesn't accidentally the whole thing at the last stop.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 11:03 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

KokuRyu - thanks for the link to "Graveyard Kitaro," but "The Graveyard Book" isn't the story about "a yōkai (demon/ spirit/ monster) boy born in a cemetery," but a boy who is living, and treads the line between living and dead. I think trying to make a wholly unique plot is nigh impossible. And this story is probably associated with the Jungle Book to keep it from being associated with Stephen King or any horror stories.

I'm a jerk, and got an advance reader copy because I couldn't wait to read it. 've read quite a bit of his work, but I'm a casual fanboy at best, or I'd already know about his reading a chapter of the book at a time. At first I was only interested in passing, but I got hooked by the end, which is quite sad. My wife got into it, too, and even teared up a bit by the transformation of the Bod from child to adolescent (I won't say more). Compared to his other works, I wouldn't say it's his greatest, but I rather liked it.

I'm quite tempted to buy a copy of the Subterrainean Press limited edition, but $250 is a shade steep for me, with no mention of the $900 Lettered version.

If you're someone new to Gaiman, or unsure of his writing, go for Smoke and Mirrors, his collection of short stories. Some were really amazing.

If you like his voice, I really enjoyed his reading of Wolves in the Walls, which is part of the audio collection. Four of Gaiman's own works, all read by him, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:16 AM on October 8, 2008

I just finished The Graveyard Book about an hour ago, and I really loved it. Somewhere I heard murmurings that it's a Newbery contender, and I'll be dadblamed if I don't believe that it might have a chance. It has a terrific gravity to it.
posted by redsparkler at 11:30 AM on October 8, 2008

I saw Gaiman read in NYC last week. He does have the perfect reading voice, deep and melodious. And he's got that wicked sense of humor in speaking that I feel he has in his writing. To think I almost didn't go! It was a little upsetting to hear about what's slowly happening to Terry Pratchett, though Gaiman put a funny spin on the situation.

I'd let a reasonably intelligent 10- or 11-year-old read The Graveyard Book; by the time I was that age, I'd read Firestarter, Carrie and The Dead Zone. Compared to those tales, this book is tame. I finished it Sunday. I enjoyed it, though, no, it isn't American Gods by any stretch. Had he written the Bod Owens character for adults and made him older, I'm sure there could've been more done with it.
posted by droplet at 11:51 AM on October 8, 2008

I got to see him read a chapter from this book nearly two years ago in San Jose. I was wondering when the full thing would be out, thanks for this!
posted by thatbrunette at 11:53 AM on October 8, 2008

The Graveyard Book is one of those books that makes me wish I had kids so I could read it to them. Instead, I'm going to be sending it to every single person I know who's spawning. I re-read it last night (I picked up an advanced reader's copy at ALA) and got all teary-eyed.

*waves at Caduceus* The Q&A afterwards was AWESOME!
posted by fuzzbean at 12:03 PM on October 8, 2008

Has anyone found an audio-only version of this somewhere?
posted by pantsrobot at 12:14 PM on October 8, 2008

Does Gaiman's stuff get any better than American Gods? I haven't read anything else, but I wasn't very impressed.

I actually kind of hated American Gods. It's the only one of his novels I've read, and I just thought it wasn't very well-written... but I LOVED Sandman. It's one of my favorite books, if we use the word book loosely. Check out the first trade paperback of Sandman sometime.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:32 PM on October 8, 2008

WARNING: First couple of issues worth have some pretty hideous and ill-fitting Sam Keith art.
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on October 8, 2008

This sounds kind of cool. BTW I read American Gods, and while I found parts of it disappointing, there were other parts that were appointing. So I will give Neal G. another chance, maybe with this graveyard deal. I think it may be too grim for my 5-year-old though.
posted by Mister_A at 12:59 PM on October 8, 2008

I love his books in general, and enjoyed American Gods, but didn't think it was his best work. Neverwhere is the one that I crawl back into for fun more than the rest.

I am glad that I knew the book well before I saw the BBC series. Eck. It was, um, amusing?

I do think it's fascinating that the novel came about somewhat backwards from the norm...he wrote the TV script first, but felt he wasn't done with the story, and thus developed it more fully into a novel.
posted by desuetude at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2008

I think American Gods is his weakest book, Stardust is completely charming and Coraline is a near perfect children's book.
posted by The Whelk at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, Smoke and Mirrors has some real gems and Good Omens (with Terry Prachet) is side-splitting. Fragile Things, not so much.
posted by The Whelk at 1:13 PM on October 8, 2008

I finished this book within 24 hours of owning it and loved it to death! I will admit that Gaiman's writing can be uneven and I haven't enjoyed some of his books as much as others. But I enjoyed The Graveyard Book more than most of his stuff that I've read in recent times. It reminds me of all the books I loved most as a child. I think it might be time to admit that Neil writes comics, short stories, and children's books really well. Not so much with the adult novels.
posted by threeturtles at 1:32 PM on October 8, 2008

I was there last Saturday for his reading of Chapter 5 and the Interlude...they showed the trailer, and 2 scenes from Coraline, and then he read from a children's book coming out in February '09 - a poem he wrote for Tori Amos when she was pregnant, at her request.

It was a fun night. Entertaining to see him, he looked a bit tired, but as I'm a fan, it was pretty cool.
posted by Chuffy at 2:00 PM on October 8, 2008

Does Gaiman's stuff get any better than American Gods? I haven't read anything else, but I wasn't very impressed.

Outside of The Sandman, I would have to say Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, is my favorite book of his.
posted by Chuffy at 3:07 PM on October 8, 2008

I'd also say American Gods is his weakest book. I still like it a lot, but the protagonist is pretty uninteresting compared to most of his characters.

*waves at Caduceus* The Q&A afterwards was AWESOME!

Yeah it was! He read one of my questions, the one about Who Killed Amanda Palmer. It was good times.
posted by Caduceus at 4:33 PM on October 8, 2008

I've got to stand up for Neverwhere. The original movie is terrible, but the novel is my favourite of his. The Sandman is truly magnificent, although I'd almost recommend newbies start with the second volume, The Dolls House. The early issues are a little weak, pretty disturbing and might be offputting. It's easy to go back to later if you end up a fan.

I pieced together my volumes completely out of order, and found it a neat puzzle discovering where things fit. Although I'd definitely recommend reading the last few in order, as not to spoil the overarching storyline.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:53 PM on October 8, 2008

i have a two year old who loves Wolves in the Walls...
i've read it to him 50+ times...
his hands get sweaty every time.
posted by minimalmark at 6:20 PM on October 8, 2008

Fantastic stuff! My productivity for the day was gone, but so worth it. I don't usually trust authors to do decent readings, but I must say that Neil Gaiman does a bang-up job of it.
posted by Xere at 7:56 PM on October 8, 2008

It struck me that the protagonist of American Gods was actually deliberately vague. It felt a little like an invitation to identify or exchange him for other heroes-journey guys.
posted by LucretiusJones at 6:44 AM on October 9, 2008

Except he had some kind of stupid goth name.
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on October 9, 2008

UPDATE: These people made a very cool Jack O'Lantern based on The Graveyard Book's cover for Halloween. And, bizarrely, Neil Gaiman has been voted "Hottest Daddy Blogger" by, naturally, other bloggers.
posted by misha at 3:26 PM on October 22, 2008

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