Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Cult of Neil (my school paper article)

Alright, here's an article I wrote for my school newspaper in an attempt to spread the greatness of Neil Gaiman. We'll see if my book-phobic schoolmates even read it. Tell me what you think...


Who is Neil Gaiman? He used to be a journalist, then he decided to write short stories, poetry, comics, graphic novels, nonfiction, fiction, and screenplays. He is a British import who now lives in Minnesota, in what he describes as “an Addams Family house that wants to be Gormenghast when it grows up.” According to his vague book-jacket bio, “Neil has exactly three children, approximately seven cats…and tends to need a haircut.” He rubs elbows with the likes of Terry Pratchett, Tori Amos, Alan Moore, Gene Wolfe, and Terry Gilliam. He is a regular on the New York Times bestseller list. He has a daily blog that gets tens of thousands of hits each month and he has legions of scarily obsessed and intensely loyal fans. So why has nobody at AB heard of him?

He is most famous for his Sandman graphic novel series for Marvel, which became the first comic ever to win a literary award when it won the 1991 World Fantasy Award. But other works stand out, too. Well before Harry Potter hit the presses, Neil wrote The Books of Magic: its protagonist, Tim Hunter, is “a small dark-haired boy with big round spectacles—a 12-year-old English boy—who has the potential to be the most powerful wizard in the world and has a little barn owl.” Hm.

Neil also wrote the novel Neverwhere and a BBC miniseries of the same name, about a bizarre world called London Below where rats speak and the places have names that correlate strangely with real places like Night’s Bridge for Knightsbridge, Black Friars, and Earls Court.

Coraline, which was published under the guise of a children’s book, is the kind of story that amuses and entertains little kids but frightens adults to the point of nightmares. I will never be able to look at buttons or marbles the same way again. The acclaimed writer Philip Pullman, who named Coraline one of his favorite books in 2002, writes that “[Coraline has] one of the most sinister introductions I’ve ever read…terrifying.”

But Neil’s most ambitious and most acclaimed novel to date is the recently published American Gods, an incredible story with a preposterous-sounding premise: an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday hires the despairing Shadow to help him recruit ancient, lost gods to fight against the new gods of technology and industry. As Wednesday (an alias for the Norse god Odin) and Shadow travel across America, they encounter the gods that have been forgotten by immigrants over thousands of years, from the mischeivous Mr. Nancy (Anansi), the mortician Mr. Jaquel (Anubis), and the deceitful convict Low-Key Lyesmith (Loki) to an Arabic ifrit and a German kobold. The multiple strands of the story come to a climax at a literal gotterdammerung in Rock City near the end of the novel. It is the kind of book that becomes more complex and enthralling the more you mull over it (yes, I mull). American Gods has won countless awards; upon winning the Hugo for best novel, Neil famously summed up his reaction in his acceptance speech: “F***. I won a Hugo!”

Soon to be released is Neil’s film MirrorMask from Sony Pictures. MirrorMask is a story he created with artist Dave McKean about Helena, a girl who “dreams that she is in a strange world with two opposing queens, bizarre creatures, and masked inhabitants.” Beyond that, there’s barely a hint about the film except for a very cool and completely unenlightening trailer on the film’s site.

So who is Neil Gaiman? His genre is, er, fantasy-cum-scifi-cum-mythology. He has written comics that women like (gasp!), children’s books meant for adults, and the English translation of a cult Japanese film. Among other things. If all this sounds very peculiar but strangely intriguing; well, that’s just Neil Gaiman.


Anonymous Virginia R. said...

Okay, I thought that was hilarious that Neil had written the Books of Magic before Rowling ever came up with the idea for Harry Potter. I mean, how hard is it just to read a book and rewrite it, changing character names and adding a few twists? I think I nearly had a heart attack when I read the summary on the back. My sister, who is completely obsessed with Ron and the whole Harry Potter craze, acted extremely affronted when I brought up my theory, and claims that Rowling is the best author ever and that there is no chance she used another author's ideas at all. I think it's ridiculous that he hasn't sued her, complained, or at least tried to file some kind of law suit. Oh, and as for feeling completely isolated from society due to the fact that there are enormous amounts of ignorant, superficial people out there, believe me, not everyone is. You kind of have to wait until university to find the few people who aren't. PS- Awesome blog. Well written for someone not even out of school. Rock On. :)

10:47 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Wow, thanks. Yep, I too love Harry Potter, but Neil Gaiman is really incomparable--I'm obsessed, as you'll see if you read my blog regularly.

Incidentally, how did you stumble across my little blog?

2:29 PM  

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