"Delicious Mix of Murder, Fantasy, Humor and Human Longing"

I just need to say real quick that I've actually met Neil Gaiman at a book signing in St. Paul, Minnesota where my dad brought me along, although at the time I didn't really know who he was. I live less than an hour from his house where he's a bee-keeper. My uncle Bob is also a bee-keeper and has apparently spoke with Gaiman about the harvest season one time. Thought that was pretty nifty.

Anyway, I ended up reading The Graveyard Book instead of Anansi Boys because the story just intrigued me; the idea of an orphan being brought up by the dead just seems very clever and mysterious. I found it interesting then when we watched the DVD in class and he spoke about how he got the idea for the book by watching his little boy pedal his tricycle around the graveyard they lived by. When he then related his work as re-vamping (no pun intended) The Jungle Book, it just clicked after reading the book.

I thought I would just make some comparisons then between The Graveyard Book and The Jungle Book, besides the closeness of their titles. Instead of having wolves, monkeys, and tigers, Gaiman uses vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. Like in The Jungle Book, every chapter within the book is almost a story within itself; in this case Nobody is about two years older in each chapter. The think the idea is brilliant since children nowadays aren't scared of animals, and usually empathize with them. I didn't have very high expectations while reading this because it IS written to be intended for children, but I actually loved it. The only drawback I had was that since this is the case, the book is fairly clean and doesn't go too deep, which I think could be elaborated for an adult version. I would love it if he were expand on this book for adults.

On a side note, Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire, The Brave One, The Crying Game) was hired to write and direct the film adaption of Gaiman's children novel. The UK studio that did the visual effects for The Dark Knight will handle the visuals, and the cast will probably consist of well-known British actors, like for the Harry Potter franchise, and the lead character of Nobody Owens will be played by several unknown actors being him at different ages. I guess that's having some difficulty now thought since Miramax was going to produce it, but Miramax basically disappeared last fall. So there's still a chance it could happen if they can get financing.

Although, while reading the book, I could definitely see this done as an animated film, especially using stop-motion techniques like Gaiman's film-adaption of Coraline.

"We are all going to die. Might as well dance. Or better yet, read a book."
OR even better yet, read The Graveyard Book.

Pit Dragons

I decided to read the first book of the Pit Dragon Trilogy by Jane Yolen instead of The Golden Compass. I simply don't have any desire to read that book, not because of it's so-called "anti-spiritual" tendencies, I'm actually an atheist myself, but simply because it's not something I'm interested in.

I actually remember reading these books once when I was in elementary school, I liked them because they had dragons in them (I still do....) So just a little background information because not everyone has read them, the books take place on a desert planet called Austar IV. There's a caste system on the planet made up of "bonders" who are servents/slaves, and the "owners." Humans have tamed dragons on this planet and train them to fight in "The Pit." I found it a bit odd, but there are a lot of human characters' name has a double "k" in it, for example, the main character's name is Jakkin. I believe that is because anyone who is a slave, or was one, has it. Anyway, he ends up stealing an egg from the hatchery and raises the his dragon on his own so that he can have her battle in the Pits so he can gain his freedom.

I'm not entirely sure how to fit this novel into a spiritual context, other than Jakkin "finds" himself during the course of the story. He is a strong character to begin with and ends up learning how pride is different than determination, which is a mistake that almost makes him lose his dragon, Heart's Blood.

I still like the book after all these years, although it is a bit of a lower-level read for me now. There are a couple parts of the book that I never really picked up on when I was little; for example, there are whore houses. There's a line in the book where Yolen describes how the men go there to "fill the women like bags." Of course, when I was reading it at 10-years-old I never got the reference and didn't think much of it. I read some reviews on the series and realized these books have been banned in some places because of this, and I think that's kind of ridiculous. I think some people are WAY too picky about monitoring what their children are reading.

Speaking of that, I had quite an experience with the Harry Potter novels and my crazy religious ex-aunt (yes she's an "ex" now since my uncle divorced her, thank god...) Well, I've always been a bit of a Harry Potter fanatic since my dad brought home the first book for me when I was little, which was the English edition called the "Philosopher's Stone" instead of the Sorcerer's Stone. My dad, for as long as I can remember, has always been bringing home books for me to read. I stood in line at Barnes & Noble for over three hours during every book release, whittled my own magic wands out of tree branches, and constantly make HP references. My girlfriends are also pretty much obsessed, and we would all get the books and then get together and quiz each other based on how far we were.

When the third book came out, which is still my favorite book AND movie of the series, my dad bought me a signed copy by J.K. Rowling. After I got it we went up to our cabin to spend the weekend with family. My crazy aunt Billy was there and saw me reading it when my parents were out and THREW THE BOOK IN THE FIREPLACE! To this day I can't even think about it without getting upset. She said I "shouldn't read that trash," and then she handed me her freaking Bible. My parents never forced religion on me and always gave me a choice to whether or not I wanted to attend church, even when I was just six-years-old. That weekend she also wouldn't let me watch The Road to El Dorado because the people in the movie believed in another God.

Middle Earth

Elements of Fantasy
- Alternate world
- Other-worldly beings
- "End of the World" situation
- Quest/Adventure, or "hero journey"
- Magical realism
- Comedy relief character, or sidekick
- Death
- Continuation of folklore

When I first read The Hobbit I was in elementary school, the fifth grade to be exact. My dad has always been one of those obsessive Middle Earth fans, and he told me when I was older that he had to "start me out young." Haha, well he succeeded, because I've been basically in love ever since. I read The Hobbit a couple of times and then ended up focusing more on The Lord of the Rings trilogy after that, especially since about a year or two later the first movie by Peter Jackson came out. I don't remember reading The Hobbit at least since middle school, so I thought I'd read it again and see if it seems any different now from what I remember.

I can definitely say, after reading it yet again, that it is much more enjoyable as an adult. I feel like I took more out of the novel than I did when I was little. The book begins very much like you would a tale for children, but there is a turning point in the story where the story begins to get more grim. The same things actually happens in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien eventually begins to raise moral questions in the book that aren't something a child is really prepared to contemplate, and so it makes more of an adult read. Such questions as who has the right to Smaug's treasure? Is Bilbo entitled to take the Arkenstone? Is there a difference between behaving properly and acting according to one's claim?

I know I wasn't prepared for those types of questions when I read it when I was 10 or 11 years old. Back then I was just immersed in this fantasy world that was so different of the "mundane" one I lived in. I've also been obsessed with dragons for as long as I can remember, and Smaug truly IS the magnificent. He is one of my favorite character I have ever encountered in a novel, and I've read a lot of novels in my life.

I also feel like the book needs to be read aloud in order to give it the justice it deserves, almost like one of those old epic poems such as Beowulf or Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey. My favorite lines from The Hobbit are during the death of Smaug:

The great bow twanged. The black arrow sped straight from the string, straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight. With a shriek that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin. Full on the town he fell. His last throes splintered it to sparks and gledes. The lake roared in. A vast steam leapt up, white in the sudden dark under the moon. There was a hiss, a gushing whirl, and then silence.

Gets me every time. The writing is absolutely beautiful.

Namelessness as Hopelessness

A Wild Sheep Chase was such a different read from what I'm using to reading in the horror genre. In the novel, I had a hard time being able to relate with some of the characters because it seemed as if something was missing. There's this feeling of detachment and disconnectedness throughout the novel, and I believe the namelessness greatly contributes to it. Names are so important in how to judge a person and determine their personality and how to describe them. To sum it up, names equal emotional attachment. Since the story is all written in the first person, I felt like I was living in his world. It was pretty miserable. The entire time the main character seemed to wonder if there was more to life. J-Horror is an expression of hopelessness.

I really liked the section of the book where there's a conversation about "mass production." The main character talks about our society today, its development, and how we name everything. He thinks it's a waste of time to give things names, if everything is mass produced, what makes anything special enough to have a name then? There's also this idea expressed on how communication between individuals is waning, which is a common theme in many stories and films around the world.

I liked the humorous writing style, or at least it was humorous to me at times. I think it was done on purpose. A Wild Sheep Chase is almost a detective/mystery novel, and the author Murakami is kind of making fun of the stereotypical "cool guy, macho detective." The book is basically a mystery without any solution. Life simply continues to go on.