Review: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

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The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains
by Neil Gaiman

★★½☆☆

2014 • 80 pages • William Morrow

Somewhere along the way, through no fault of his own, I lost Neil Gaiman.

Good Omens was one of the first non-Harry Potter novel I read under my own steam. (I was not a big reader as a kid; I was a repetitive reader. It was one of my first coping mechanisms for my then unfathomable anxiety.) It was a favorite of webcomic creator Stan Stanley, whose Boy Meets Boy I read religiously—and secretively—as a preteen, and therefore the first recommendation I ever came across from a source I trusted. My faith was rewarded: I devoured Good Omens and moved onto American Gods, Coraline, and Anansi Boys in short order. It was all part of what I think of fondly as my brief kindergoth phase. Despite lacking the resources, chutzpah, or basic understanding of how clothes worked to commit to the baby goth, punk, or emo (kids, ask your parents) looks my childhood friends took to, I happily lingered on the periphery, dreaming dark, Romantic thoughts of dying my hair blue and writing urban fantasy.

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Review: Make Good Art

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman and Chip Kidd

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Every graduation season, amazing people make amazing commencement speeches. And because we’re lucky enough to live in the digital age, their stories, advice, and inspiration is available to everyone, not just the graduates. In 2012, Neil Gaiman joined in the fun with his “Make Good Art” speech delivered to the graduating class of Philadelphia’s the University of the Arts. I remember it absolutely blowing up around this time last year, as I was facing my own graduation from college.

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Review: Fortunately the Milk

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

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As a reader and as a bookstore employee, I’ve become very familiar with how we age books. As a young person who is often found fixing up the shelving in our children’s nook, I get asked a lot by people where on earth their favorite book from childhood is. It’s one of those supposedly easy questions; it’s in children’s, but where in children’s is it? It’s so easy for novels to cross the adult/young adult barrier (see Malinda Lo’s Ash) and how many “classics” written for an audience that was divided solely into adults and children now fall into into a trisected market (young adult, middle grade, and children’s). But nobody wants to hear me expound on the sociological and marketing factors behind all that at work, so I just do my best to be helpful.

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Booking Through Thursday: Nightmare Cast

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And, the reverse–which actors have been particularly badly cast in roles of characters you first met in the pages of a book? Do you blame the actors or the writers and other film-people for the failure? Who would you have cast instead?

“Nightmare” is such a strong word, isn’t it? I’d reserve it for something as egregious as whitewashing or anything else flat-out offensive. I’ve seen plenty of actors that I, were I a casting director, perhaps might not have cast as certain characters, but I’ve so rarely seen anyone completely fail at playing a character that I can’t even think of an example. Acting is a job like any other; at the end of the day, every actor wants to do good work for good money. If the character is poorly written, that’s the screenwriters’ fault, not theirs.

This question reminds me a little of the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire. Anne Rice was livid that Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat. She just couldn’t see any way that Maverick could do her character justice. Then she saw the film. Afterwards, she wrote Cruise a letter of apology. Cruise is, perhaps, not everybody’s vision of Lestat, but the stamp that he does put on the character, emphasizing his weaknesses in a way that makes him entertaining as both a character and an antagonist, is an enjoyable one.

The point is, there’s always plenty of room for different interpretations of literary characters, with, of course, some reasonable exceptions (no, the cast of Anansi Boys can’t be white!). After all, they’re safe and sound in their books.

The Sunday Salon: The Totemic Book

I have been hitting thrift stores with a vengeance lately; I’m watching my money, it’s always an adventure, and you never know what you’ll find. For instance, one of my favorite t-shirts is a Duran Duran 2008 Red Carpet Massacre tour shirt, because every time I put it on to express some New Wave love, I wonder about who went to the concert, bought the shirt, and then donated it. Adorning the door to my room right now is a LP of She’s So Unusual, which I just had to buy because of both the cover art (I never realized Lauper was making such a serious face!) and because Sheba, the previous owner, has written her name on it. Every time I head out for the day, I wonder about how Sheba experienced the eighties and what lead her or her friends and family to donate the album. It’s questions like that that make me love used books and other books with stories.

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Reading by Ear: Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
read by Lenny Henry

Anansi Boys was one of the first novels I specifically went out and bought that wasn’t a Harry Potter book or a FoxTrot anthology. (Yes, that’s all I read as a child.) I’d already read and loved American Gods—that first chapter stunned wee Clare into a kind of reverent silence, which was not easy to do—and when I discovered Anansi Boys existed via an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I hied myself down to the Books-a-Million and bought myself a copy. I was so careful with books as a kid; I remember reading this only at night, right before bed, so I wouldn’t damage the gorgeous cover.

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Giveaway: The Graveyard Book

It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

via Amazon

Last year, Neil Gaiman invented All Hallow’s Read, a new holiday where we give scary books to each other for Halloween. While I didn’t have time to put something together last year, I have this year—I’m giving away a gently used copy of The Graveyard Book to one reader.

Here are the rules:

  • Comment to enter–don’t forget to include an e-mail address I can reach you at!
  • US residents only, sorry!
  • Winners will need to respond within two days or another winner will be chosen.

This giveaway will end on October 21.

Good luck!

The Sunday Salon: NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books

In June, I was alerted by my fellow The Lord of the Rings fans to NPR’s call to nominate books for their Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. Setting aside the problem of conflating the genres—I mean, I get it, but it does mean a lot of good books in both categories will fall by the wayside—I enjoyed looking through the comments for new recommendations and, of course, taking the opportunity to peddle Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering like it’s my job. (If you read and liked The Lord of the Rings, you should read it. End of story.) The nominations were counted, the votes were tallied, and on Thursday, NPR unveiled the fruit of its labors—their top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books (circa Summer 2011). I’m not going to copy the list verbatim—you can find a printable version here if you so desire—but I am going to talk about some of the selections that made it, be they good or bad in my book.

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Booking Through Thursday: Repeats

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

I don’t know which was first and I don’t recall how many times, but the two books I’ve reread the most are Good Omens and Wicked. Nowadays, I don’t reread; there’s just so many new and wonderful things that I have to keep moving, like a shark, so I keep rereading limited to audiobooks.

But in high school, I used to reread those books all the time. There was a time when I would reread Wicked every three months, like clockwork. I discovered it in debate, actually—a friend of mine was reading it, I read half of it in our local Books-a-Million, and then bought it, which makes it one of the few good things that came out of my debate experience.