Author SPLOTlight: Neil Gaiman
With Coraline unleashed on the world, to wildly positive reviews, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce you all to the book's author: Neil Gaiman.
As he describes himself on his own site, "Sometimes, when he was smaller, people used to tell Neil Gaiman not to make things up. He never listened." And he definitely does give off the vibe of being a guy who never really grew out of his imagination. That's pretty rare, which is why his writing is so unique and important. He's the living embodiment of the idea of the quirky, eccentric author (he grows pumpkins and keeps bees, apparently), and frankly, that's awesome.
Between the success of Coraline and his recent Newbery Medal win (for The Graveyard Book, which I reviewed a while back), Mr. Gaiman is surely having one of his better months. But he's been around for a while, writing great short stories, novels, and comic books. Ever since he "arrived on the scene" with Sandman, a long, intense, and complex graphic novel series for adults, he's been crafting a great body of dark fantasy works.
And it's not like he's just getting recognized for his general awesomeness now; he's won a whole bunch of what he calls "astonishingly ugly" awards, such as the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Bram Stoker Award.
Like I mentioned in my Graveyard Book review, Mr. Gaiman excels at showing us a world similar to ours with little twists thrown in. Often, those twists actually highlight or point out strange realities about our world. For example, in The Graveyard Book, the main character is raised by a family of ghosts who've been dead for hundreds of years. They love him very much, but they can't identify with him at all — everything they know about the world is based on the way it was in the 19th century. And isn't that how it is with everyone's parents sometimes? You know they love you to death (no pun intended), but despite all that, there are times when they just don't get you.
And that's when fantasy literature is at its best. As much as I love "pure" fantasies like The Hobbit, they usually don't tell us anything about the world we live in. For a fantasy book to be truly great, it has to teach us something new about familiar things by showing them to us in unfamiliar ways.
If any of that intrigues you, check out his website here:
A good place to start is his collection of short stories, called M is for Magic. Once you've gotten an idea of what his world is like, jump into The Graveyard Book or Coraline. Everything he's written for kids is highly recommended.
Read anything by Mr. Gaiman? Got any other fantasy books I should check out? Let me know in the comments!
— Jack L., STACKS Staffer