Thursday, May 20, 2010
THIS WEEK WE ARE READING...the sublimely surreal
Not going to overdo the synopses here (note: these aren't exactly spoilers but skip this paragraph if you don't want any hints about endings) but, in short, WEETZIE BAT is the story of a young woman who lives with her gay best friend, has a child out of wedlock, confronts AIDS and death, and winds up finding happiness in a mythic 1980s Los Angeles. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK follows Nobody Owens ("Bod") who, as a toddler, escapes being murdered with the rest of his family by wandering into a graveyard where he is raised and protected by the dead until reaching young adulthood and eagerly stepping out into the world to live his life. Neither novel shies away from challenging subject matter but instead integrates it into sublimely surreal yet urgently compelling worlds filled with death and life, grief and joy.
Both Gaiman and Block delight in wordplay and recognize the power and importance of character names and chapter titles. Both are keenly aware of the ways prosaic structure (and, in Gaiman's case you've also got to note the elegant, organic interweaving of illustration into the book's format and design) can drive a story forward. Both create complete, absorbing yet fantastical worlds into which the reader is immersed. And both, in the end, find beauty in wounds that can't be healed and, be it Tinsel Town or a last resting place, hope in places that will never be perfect.
Read these two books as a study in structure and style and to see two master wordsmith's at work.