Tag: Neil Gaiman

Nov 22

Literary Tourism: Rock City

Literary Tourism 6

Howdy Bookworms!

Guess what? I went on a vacation! Hubs and I decided that we were in dire need of a getaway for any number of reasons, and so we decided to take a road trip to Florida. I realize that after our last road trip to Florida I said I would never ever ever do that again, but I am often wrong. This time, though, we planned much more efficiently and things went very smoothly. We even snuck a little bit of literary tourism in along the way. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog, and after re-reading it a couple of months ago, I was extra jazzed when Hubs suggested that we visit Rock City on our way through Chattanooga. Hubs was motivated by YouTube videos, but I was super stoked because Rock City served as the backdrop for some pivotal scenes in American Gods. Here’s how Neil Gaiman describes it in the novel:

Who needs billboards when you can paint on barns?

Who needs billboards when you can advertise on barns?

Rock City begins as an ornamental garden on a mountainside: its visitors walk a path that takes them through rocks, over rocks, between rocks. They thrown corn into a deer enclosure, cross a hanging bridge and peer out through a quarter-a-throw binoculars at a view that promises them seven states on the rare sunny days when the air is perfectly clear. And from there, like a drop in some strange hell, the path takes the visitors, millions upon millions of them every year, down into caverns, where they stare at black-lit dolls arranged into nursery rhyme and fairy tale dioramas. When they leave, they leave bemused, uncertain of why they came, of what they have seen, of whether they had a good time or not.

Dude is not wrong. The place is equal parts stunning natural beauty and creepy roadside kitsch. Although, I can say without hesitation that I did, in fact, have a great time. I highly recommend you visit should you find yourself in the area.

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Majestic natural beauty…

Super creepy black light dioramas.

Super creepy black light dioramas.

There is one caveat, though. Rock City, being, in large part, a natural rock formation does NOT lend itself well to accessibility. There are some very tight squeezes between rocks which, in addition to being difficult for those with claustrophobia, would be inaccessible for folks of a larger stature. That’s not to mention the rickety bridges, uneven ground, and steep staircases. The good news is that the best part of Rock City, the natural splendor of the view from Lookout Mountain and Lover’s Leap, is easily accessible to all by means of a trail that is both wheelchair friendly and friendly to folks of all shapes and sizes. So while not everyone can enjoy the creepiness of those cave dioramas, the mountain view is freaking gorgeous and worth the trip.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y'all.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y’all.

Talk to me bookworms! Have you been to Rock City? Have you done any Literary Tourism of your own? I want to hear all about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 21

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Audio Books, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Mythology 15

Dearest Bookworms,

Have you ever heard people claim they’d love to have Morgan Freeman narrate their lives? Morgan Freeman is a whole lot of wonderful, I’ll grant you (March of the Penguins, holla!) However. I’m convinced people find the decision to nominate Morgan Freeman as their life’s narrator such a simple one is because they’ve yet to listen to Neil Gaiman read one of his books aloud. Thanks to Scribd, I’ve been audio-booking more than ever and one of my first selections was Stardust by the man himself. (Neil Gaiman, not Morgan Freeman. I don’t know if Morgan Freeman writes books. He might, he’s probably good at everything and spends his free time teaching poverty stricken children how to play the violin, but I digress…)

stardustStardust is a whimsical fairy tale following a young Tristran Thorne. He lives in the town of Wall, England which lies on the border between this world and Faerie. Tristran spends his time going about his daily life all Victorian style and pining for the town beauty, Victoria Forester. One evening Tristran and Victoria see a shooting star. Victoria tells Tristran she will marry him if he retrieves the star for her, and so he sets out on a quest to find it. Unbeknownst to Tristran, his visit to Faerie will be something of a homecoming, as he’s the product of a tryst between his mortal father and an enslaved faerie princess. His adventures beyond the wall include battling witches, elf lords, curses, magic, and mayhem of the best kind.

I have heard tell that the movie version of Stardust is better than the book (blasphemy? Perhaps, but it’s been known to happen.) Clearly I need to see this movie, because the book was utterly charming with just the right amount of Gaiman-style darkness. Fans of Neil Gaiman, fairy tales, and good old fashioned quests ought to pick this up. And then probably see the movie, because it’s apparently awesome.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Have any of you seen a shooting star? Meteor shower? A plane you pretended was a shooting star just so you could make a wish? (Seriously, I cannot be the only one to have done that plane thing…)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 30

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Audio Books, Fantasy, Frightening 31

Greetings Bookworms!

I love this time of year. Autumn and pumpkins and baked goods and Halloween? Fall as a season is clearly a conspiracy of the universe to distract us mere mortals from the fact that WINTER IS COMING. (Thanks a lot, Ned Stark!) It’s a wonderful time of year to curl up with a book (or ten) and a nice warm cup of something nice and warm. (Cider? Cocoa? Coffee? Tea? Insert your beverage of choice.) Some books just go better with the season than others, though, and Neil Gaiman is a force to be reckoned with.

theoceanattheendofthelaneI recently finished listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane as an audio book. It was narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. Holy crap, you guys! The man’s voice is so delicious I may never physically read another one of his novels. I just want to listen to Neil Gaiman read me bedtime stories. I swear that’s not as creepy as it sounds…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane begins with a middle-aged man returning to his hometown to attend a funeral. He is mysteriously drawn to a farm at the end of the road on which he once lived and is suddenly inundated with memories.

Forty years ago when our narrator was a 7-year-old boy, a boarder who was living in his home committed suicide. The suicide set off a chain of events both supernatural and unbelievable. The man begins to remember his friendship with the mysterious and remarkable Lettie Hempstock and her curious mother and grandmother.

I want to say Neil Gaiman is the master of this sort of speculative, supernatural, dreamlike fiction, but that seems wrong. Gaiman’s work is so unique that it’s practically a genre unto itself. Every time I finish one of his books, I feel like I’m waking up from a bizarre dream, equal parts nightmare and fantasy. If that description appeals to you in the slightest, go find the nearest Gaiman novel and start reading.

Tell me, Bookworms. Do you often remember your dreams? I find that mine are odd, vivid, and typically anxious. I’m wondering if that’s normal or if I’ve got more problems than I imagined. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I can only hope it won’t present itself as a coin stuck in my throat in the middle of the night…*

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Oct 24

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Children's Fiction, Frightening 38

Salutations Bookworms,

Coraline I love October. The air is getting crisp and apples are in season. It makes me want to snuggle up and read even more than usual! In continuation of my dark and spooky October reading fest, I decided to pick up Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Coraline is a little girl who is bored out of her mind during a school vacation. Her parents both work from home, but they are both too busy to amuse her one afternoon. She sulks around for a bit and eventually runs across the key to a mysterious door in their flat. Instead of containing the brick wall that normally lives behind the door, our little heroine discovers a dark passageway. Her curiosity simply won’t allow her NOT to find out what’s going on…

She discovers her “Other Mother”… “Other Mother” makes roast chicken and allows Coraline to play with all sorts of toys. She offers Coraline the opportunity to stay forever- if only she’ll sew black buttons in place of her eyes. Coraline is understandably creeped out, so she decides to go home. Only, once she’s home? Her parents have disappeared. Because “Other Mother” is evil and stuff.

It’s Neil Gaiman, y’all. The button eyeballs and evil surrogate parents are to be expected. To quote the perennially brilliant Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Our little heroine has to use her wits to save her parents, and some other lost souls along the way.

I thought this book was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t quite as blown away as I’d expected to be. It was a cute, fun, and appropriately creepy for the season. Just don’t go in expecting your socks to be blown to Neptune. My socks stayed somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.

What about you, bookworms? Anybody else read Coraline? See the movie? Tell me about it!

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Sep 04

Take Me Down, Six Underground (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman)

Fantasy, Mythology, Supernatural, Travel 53

Well Hello Bookworms,

I am not much of a world traveler, so it may surprise you to know I have, in fact, left the good old USA on occasion. When I was in college, I took a mini-mester in London. It was a two week trip where our instructors traveled with us. We took three hours of class a day and spent the rest of the time sight seeing and rambling around trying not to be overly obnoxious. Not sure that we succeeded. In any case, we were supplied with two week pass to the London underground. Thus, I became entranced with “The Tube.”

The London subway system is a massive network of underground tunnels, like any subway. However, having never used a subway system in any other major city, I found it weirdly romantic and exciting. This is likely because I was commuting to tourist destinations instead of work… I imagine the mystique would fade quite quickly if it were part of your day-to-day routine…

That’s the case for Richard Mayhew, the protagonist in Neil Gaiman’s NeverwhereRichard moves to London from Scotland. After a few years of commuting on the Tube, it’s lost its intrigue. He is concerned primarily with his job and his (rather pushy and unpleasant) fiance Jessica. All is well until one night as they head off to dinner.

Richard and Jessica unexpectedly encounter a young woman on the sidewalk… Bleeding profusely. Richard feels compelled to help while Jessica threatens to break off their engagement if Richard doesn’t continue on to their dinner. (Yeah, Jessica kind of sucks, though she DOES suggest calling an ambulance as they continue on their way, so I guess she’s only medium evil.) Richard, acting on instinct, takes the mysterious girl in his arms and back to his apartment after she implores him not to contact the authorities. Richard finds this a bit suspicious, but after a disturbing run-in with a pair of rather unsavory characters, Richard surmises the girl has good reason to keep a low profile. Richard then accompanies the girl on a strange adventure into another world known as London Below. neverwhere

This IS Neil Gaiman after all, you’ve got to expect some magic. London Below is situated in the space between subway platforms. It’s in the abandoned stations, the basements, and sewers of the city. It’s where the “people who fall through the cracks” end up. An odd mixture of characters make their homes in London Below. The underworld seems to be disconnected from time as we experience it, so you run into medieval monks as easily as Victorian castaways, the odd witch, and occasional bounty hunter. London Below is also extremely dangerous. Mythical beasts walk around unchecked. Rats converse with humans. Doors appear out of nowhere. Assassins run wild. But for all its strangeness, it’s also fascinating.

Neil Gaiman is a master of the creepy. He blends magic, mythology, and spooky ambiance seamlessly. I love that he chose the London Underground as his setting for this book! I always get excited when books are set in places I’ve been. I mean, it’s certainly cool to visit places you’ve never been in your reading, but there’s something about having a personal connection with a place. Anyway, I believe Neverwhere is my favorite Gaiman to date. Perfect reading for the transition into fall. I recommend it to anyone in the mood for a little bit of an eerie adventure.

Have any of you Bookworms out there enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s work? Have you read Neverwhere? What did you think? Have you ever imagined a mysterious underground civilization hanging out in your city? (It’s okay if your imaginary underground city includes the Ninja Turtles. I know mine does.)

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May 23

Good Omens, Dogma, and Nostalgia

Coming of Age, Fantasy, Humor, Mythology, Personal, Religion 43

Salutations Bookworms!

I recently finished reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It’s been on my radar for a while, but I only now got around to giving it a go. Gaiman and Pratchett are both well known authors of the quirky variety, so it seems natural that they teamed up, especially given the cheeky and irreverent nature of the subject matter…

Things only a nerd who took Spanish would notice: why is there a tilde over an S?

Things only a nerd who took Spanish would notice: why is there a tilde over an S?

So, Heaven and Hell are operating as usual, what with the demons trying to make human life difficult and the angels trying to influence things the other direction. One day, Satan gets all antsy and decides to pull a Rosemary’s Baby by sending the fruit of his loins onto the earth to bring about Armageddon. Thanks to an order of Satanist nuns (who attempt to be as loud as possible to differentiate themselves from other nuns who take vows of silence… Very contrary, Satanists), there’s a bit of a mix up in the hospital. Satan’s spawn is sent home to grow up with an unsuspecting set of parents while a mortal baby is raised in pretty bizarre circumstances. Satanist nannies do their best to influence “Warlock” to embrace his evil, while the angels keep sticking their noses in to try and make him overcome his nature. Obviously their efforts are in vain, as baby Warlock is in possession of no supernatural capabilities.

While the forces of good and evil play a celestial chess game with a frustratingly mortal child, Adam, the ACTUAL demon spawn, is left to grow up like any other human. The only angels and devils perched on his shoulders are purely metaphorical. One angel and one demon in particular (Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively) play an especially important role in bringing about the end of the world, but they’ve become rather disenchanted with the idea of a celestial battle. While Aziraphale and Crowley have been growing weary, War, Famine, Pollution, and Death (the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, of course, Pestilence having retired following the discovery of penicillin) have been gearing up for the end of days. Despite the best intentions of both Heaven and Hell, neither side is particularly well prepared for Armageddon thanks to humanity fouling things up. You try plotting world destruction when your minions are unreliable!

Conflicted!

The Devil and Angel on my shoulders!

To be completely honest (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) Good Omens left me feeling lukewarm. I can’t discuss this book without bringing up Dogma. In 1999, Kevin Smith and his merry band of misfits put together a movie that was heavily influenced by Good Omens, though not a movie version of the book. Gaiman was instrumental in helping Smith craft his tale, and is thanked in the credits. I knew Good Omens and Dogma were in cahoots, but I was disappointed to find out that the story was completely different. I mean, sure. Heaven, Hell, Armageddon, creatures from another realm of existence doing battle- that was all there. But some of the elements that really drew me to the movie like heckling organized religion and giving a little spin on the family history of Jesus were absent in this book. My connection to Dogma is polluted by nostalgia. That movie came out when I was in high school, and Kevin Smith offered just the right combination of humor, intelligence, and bad language to make watching his movies as a teen a safe way to rebel while not getting into any ACTUAL trouble. (Appreciating humor at the expense of established cultural norms does not represent my feelings on religion in any way, so please don’t think that I’m being disrespectful. I simply enjoy revisionist takes on history- biblical and otherwise.)

I recently read somewhere that people who don’t read The Catcher in The Rye as a teenager will never appreciate it properly, and I think this might be the case with me and Good Omens. What about you, Bookworms? Have you ever (gasp) liked a movie better than a book? Were you ashamed to admit it?

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