Posts Tagged ‘Neil Gaiman’

Gaimanesque Droplets of Truth

August 3, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is the best book I’ve read in quite a while. Gaiman’s understanding of what it means to be human runs so deep. His stories are sprinkled with small droplets of truth. (I know, truth is a difficult concept, but it feels like truth, it really does.)

She stopped talking, rubbed her freckled nose with a finger. Then, “I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age [7!]. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

I would not be surprised if Gaiman receives the Nobel Prize for The Ocean at the End of the Lane. And the story has movie written all over it, although movies based upon books has a tendency to disappoint when one has already read the book. (And watching the movie first usually ruins any chance of experiencing the book afterwards.)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012

June 9, 2013

I think anyone in a creative trade could take some advice from, and even enjoy, Neil Gaiman:

Hattip: Neil Gaiman’s Journal

Story Water by Gunhild Seim at Vossa Jazz 2012

March 31, 2012

Neil Gaiman, the famous writer, once told a story about his early teens when he’d decided he wanted to be a writer. Then he read Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Now, he wanted to be a writer and the book he wanted to write, was Lord of the Rings. Only problem, of course, it was already written. To many, this obstacle would seem unsurmountable. To Gaiman, it was a minor challenge. He figured out, if he just held onto the book and then traveled into a parallel universe where Lord of the Rings was not written, he could publish it there in his own name. A brilliant solution, of course, to a rather delicate problem, I’d say.

What has all this to do with anything, not the least Story Water by Gunhild Seim at Vossa Jazz 2012? To begin with, I’m obviously at Vossa Jazz 2012, and yesterday I attended when Gunhild Seim and her group performed their piece called Story Water. The piece was commissioned for the festival, and the performance last night was, I presume, the debut. And it was great. Really jawdropping great. What struck me, when I sat there, was that if I was going to write a piece of music, I would want it to be Story Water. Now, all I need are some music-writing ambitions and a parallel universe where Story Water has yet to surface. (Great things always do.)

 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

March 28, 2012

While things grinds to a halt and life as I knew it is coming to an end, sort of, I’be been reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s very fine book Good Omens. It is something as rare as a novel written by not one, but two great authors. While I knew some of Gaiman’s work pretty well, I had not read any of Pratchett’s. I’ve heard of its reputation, though. Good Omens was published in 1990, at a time when none of them were the superstars they are today. I came across my copy in a flea market last year. I think it was unread, for reasons I cannot understand. Because it is a great book. And a little bit strange. It has to be, I guess, being a funny book about the Apocalypse. And it really is funny. I laughed out loud, several times, while reading in public spaces, something my Norwegian nature otherwise forbids (no, not forbidding  to read in public spaces, but to laugh out loud, I’m making a mess of this, I’m sorry; not fully coherent today, it seems).

The foreword serves a taste of the great fun that lies ahead of the reader and tells of the passion readers have embraced the book with:

[…] Good Omens was written by two people who at the time were not at all well know except by the people who already knew them. They weren’t even certain it would sell They certainly didn’t know they were going to write the most repaired book in the world. (Believe us: We have signed a delightful large number of paperbacks that have been dropped in the bath, gone a worrying brown color, got repaired with sticky tape and string, and, in one case, consisted entirely of loose pages in a plastic bag. On the other hand, there was the guy who’d had a special box made up of walnut and silver filigree, with the paperback nestiling inside on black velvet. There were silver runes on the lid. We didn’t ask.) Etiquette tip: It’s okay, more or less, to ask an author to sign your arm, but not good manners to then nip around to the tattoo parlor next door and return half an hour later to show them the inflamed result.

I strongly recommend this book. It will put brightness into your life.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

April 24, 2010

Years ago, I bought Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I love Neil Gaiman. For a long time, I only knew him as the author of the Sandman comic series. Later, I’ve discovered him as a great fanatasy writer as well. The novel American Gods are among the best I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Gaiman. It’s something about the way the supernatural is weaved into the ‘real’ world which is so fascinating and so natural you almost believe it.

Fragile Things. Had it for years, read it just recently. I cannot remember any particular reason for not reading it before, other than that I didn’t have time when I bought it. Fragile Things is a collection of ‘Short Fictions & Wonders.’ It also has a couple of poems. In the introduction, Gaiman tells a little bit about each story; how or where he came up with the idea, what inspired him, or what he wanted to do.

Some stories are longer than others. I tend to like the longer stories best. The first one, for example, A Study in Emerald, about an unusual murder investigation in seventeenth century London, could have filled the whole book if it were up to me. The same goes for Bitter Grounds, Goliath, Sunbird, and certainly The Monarch of the Glen, in which Shadow, the main character from American Gods get into trouble again. Other stories, like October in the Chair, Other People, Good Boys Deserve Favours, and Harlequin Valentine work perfect in the short format. My Life is an hillarious monologue by some sort of monkey and deserves to be read out loud in good company. The only problem is that it is too short! In the introduction, Gaiman writes, ‘I have no doubt that, given enough alcohol and a willing ear, it could go on for ever.’ I’m all ears.

Fragile Things are filled with all this wonder, and everyone should have something wonderful in their life. Gaiman is one way. Perhaps illegally, I bring the first couple of paragraphs from the short story Other People, just as a teaser:

‘Time is fluid here,’ said the demon.
He knew it was a demon the moment he saw it. He knew it, just as he knew the place was Hell. There was nothing else that either of them could have been.
The room was long, and the demon waited by a smoking brazier at the far end. A multitude of objects hung on the rock-grey walls, of the kind that it would not have been wise or reassuring to inspect too closely. The ceiling was low, the floor oddly insubstantial.
‘Come close,’ said the demon, and he did.
The demon was rake-thin, and naked. It was deeply scarred, and it appeard to have been flayed at some time in the distant past. It had no ears, no sex. Its lips were thin and ascetic, and its eyes were a demon’s eyes: they had seen too much and gone too far, and under thier gaze he felt less important than a fly.
‘What happens now?’ he asked.
‘Now,’ said the demon, in a voice that carried with it no sorrow, no relish, only a dreadful flat resignation, ‘you will be tortured.’

Alright, so perhaps Other People is not the most ideal story to bring wonder into your life; its still a little pearl of a story; Fragile Things is filled with them.

Mogwai

February 3, 2009

Mogwai was thee band that opened my eyes (and my heart) to post-rock. Someone has described post-rock as ‘non-rock music played with rock instruments.’ That’s only half true, of course. Post-rock is played with rock instruments, but what does non-rock mean? Post-rock is certainly heavily influenced by rock, and many post-rock songs could easily be generally sorted under rock. Post-rock is a strange genre of rock music, by the way; I still haven’t heard a really bad post-rock album! One of my music-geek friends could not name a bad post-rock album either. I can think of two possible explanations. Either post-rock is such an easy genre that anyone can do it, or only the really good ones do it. Maybe it is a little bit of both. Certainly, a lot of intelligent, gifted musicians play post-rock. But what does it take to ‘fail’ in post-rock? Singing too much? I don’t know, and that may be a bad sign.

Anyway, the first Mogwai album I owned was Rock Action. I was sold immediately. I love every song on that record, and I play it way too seldom. I remember seeing Mogwai on the Øya Festival in Oslo, in 2003 I think it was. The concert was a weird experience, with technical problems throughout, a short nod to Turbonegro (the headliner the previous day), and thrashing of equipment which almost ended up in a fight between the keyboardist and one from the stage crew, but it was still great. I listened to Happy Songs for Happy People (such an ironic title) on the way home, I think I bought it at the festival, and remember being a little bit disapointed at first. The album grew on me, however. Now, I regard the opener ‘Hunted By a Freak’ one of their greatest efforts; a definition I measure other post-rock bands against.

Below is a beautifully animated movie for ‘Hunted By a Freak’ (from YouTube). It is sad and grotesque in an almost Gaimanesque (see second half of post; I would prefer Gaimanic, or even Gaimanian, but Google has spoken) way.