Friday, 21 January 2011

Pure Fantasy.

Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust' was the book I carried around with me last week. It really was very enjoyable and I thought it heaps better than 'Neverwhere' which I was given for Christmas the year before (in fact the same friend gave me Stardust this Christmas being a huge fan of his herself). It is a fantasy book of the purest sort which I am not at all used to, the nearest I get to fantasy being Terry Pratchett but since he draws so many parallels with the real world they don't feel as alien to me as proper fantasy novels. Although Gaiman writes very fluidly and creates worlds that are terribly interesting and fantastical, he always leaves me feeling unfulfilled. His characters are never properly drawn and are always one dimensional so they are hard to like or care about, his fantasy worlds are certainly jolly exciting but are not described well enough for one to feel they really exist or to even properly picture them, unlike the fantasy world created by J. K Rowling for example. But above all what leaves me feeling he can't craft a book properly is that large amounts of it will be written in such a simplistic style that I get bored and feel that really he should be writing for the young adult market instead, but then there will be a big sex scene, and so clearly he does intend his book to be for adults... Not an author I am much impressed by.

I am currently very annoyed with my flatmate. Since we moved in together last summer I have always been the one who organised the bills, did the majority of the housework and so on and I got used to it and although it irked me a little sometimes I had pretty much thought that would happen before we moved in together and she is easy to live with so it was okay. Then she met her boyfriend and they have spent every night together since at his flat. I was a bit lonely at times but I got used to it and after all it was none of my business where she choose to sleep as long as she paid her share of the bills etc. However, since Christmas she and her boyfriend have sort of decamped to our flat on a regular basis and I am not loving the extra company... I suppose I got used to having the flat to myself a lot of the time, but the fact that she is around more but still doing no extra stuff with the flat is bugging me a tad. All made worse by discovering this morning that she had piled my mail from over a month ago, including bills in my name but for us both for which we had incurred late fees as I thought no bill had arrived, personal invitations and letters, she had piled all of this under junk mail and not bothered about it! I am cross and doubt she will apologise... but then I do rather wonder if deep down it is more to do with the fact I am not at all sure I like her boyfriend and am not wild that he is spending so much time in our flat. When there are only two of you having another person around makes a big difference I find.

He seems so unfriendly and pretty much ignores me, while she is so wrapped up in him that when he is there she barely manages to say hello. He was round on the night I got in with my highest ever grade for an essay and I very excitedly told her the news to have her half heartedly say well down while he continued to watch tv, she then turned to him and started talking about something else... This is only her second ever boyfriend and I understand she is absorbed by him but I do feel she is taking it too far. I vow never to become such a girlfriend and I definitely think spending every single night together is too much; everyone needs some free time on their own and time with friends without their boyfriend. When I was with my ex I did spend a lot of time with him and although I do consider I spent too much time with him on balance, I still spent time on my won doing things and lots with friends... I can't help feeling that being so focused on a man (everything they do revolves around him and his schedual and preferences)  is jolly pathetic. Plus such intensity cannot be sustained forever, perhaps their relationship will burn out?

Interestingly although they are so together and clingy with each other (or at least she is), they are not planning to move in together this summer when we would have the option of letting our lease expire... It kind of makes me wonder if he is less serious than she is but that he just likes having a girlfriend. He is certainly a serial relationship person which I dislike intensely. He was with a girl for 3 years, within 2 months of splitting he was with another for a year and within a few weeks he was with my flatmate! Rather horrifying and it does imply that he doesn't like being single and just goes for the first girl he quite likes. I hate that sort of thing and would much rather be single for a long time to get over the previous person and also to find someone good enough to go out with. Maybe he just likes the fantasy that Hollywood sells us whereby everyone gets coupled up and so he goes from girlfriend to girlfriend as he has been sold the dream that being in a couple is preferable?


  1. Are you looking for a solution to the problem with your flatmate?

    I prefer Neil Gaiman to Terry Pratchett. Also, I don't believe his characters to be one sided. Even in Stardust you see several sides to the characters in the book. For example, the star herself who transforms from a petulant girl to a woman in love.

    The thing with Neil Gaiman is he writes the books people wish they could write. The fact that the writing style is simple could be considered to be a plus than a minus. No annoying monologues, no paragraphs rambling on about how the vistas unfold majestically as gnats fly about or some shite.

    I do think it's ridiculous that you say he cannot craft a book properly. He crafts them better than Terry Pratchett or J.K. Rowling whom you've mentioned. For example, Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time is utterly confusing when you try and understand what is actually happening to the character. The Harry Potter books are full of repetitions and are now just cash cows to rope in more and more money, an indicator of which is the lawsuit she pursued against a fan for creating some fan memorabilia.

    Leaving aside the fact that there are authors who are a lot worse than he is who receive far more acclaim you could look at the breadth of his work for evidence that he is an amazing writer. He's written things from the critically acclaimed Sandman series to award winning collections of short stories and film scripts. This is someone who can write in any medium. If you want multi dimensional characters with a well explained background then try American Gods or perhaps even Anansi Boys.

    Perhaps you're the person who's not using their imagination adequately when reading his books? Also, Terry Pratchett and J.K Rowling are by their own declaration, writing for children, young adults and adults who want to be one or the other of the former two. Please don't insult an excellent writer because you've not been able to comprehend his work.

  2. I don't think it is due to my lack of imagination that I don't rate Neil Gaimen very highly! If anything he leaves nothing to the imagination because he rather spells out exactly what simplistic feelings his characters have and to that end I find them quite bland and very one dimensional, and because of that find myself unable to connect with or care at all about them.

    But that does not mean I don't enjoy reading a book of his every so often for they are very easy to read, cheerful and don't make one think terribly much.

    I didn't mean to imply that Rowling was a better author than Gaimen, for actually I don't think she writes at all well, but I think her very skilled in creating and describing a whole fantasy world and to my mind she is much better at doing so than Gaimen is.

  3. Both the books you're referring to were ones originally intended for a different format. Stardust is actually a graphic novel series and Neverwhere is a TV series script. The "simplistic feelings" you're referring to are quite probably cribbed in notes from the narrative/script. Probably for the illustrators benefit in one and the director/actors' benefit in the other.

    If you're going to judge an author perhaps you should judge him after observing his work in the format it was intended. Script writing and narrative writing for graphic novels are entirely different beasts to writing a straight up novel. For example, in a script you cannot do any free association and graphic novels won't allow grandiose descriptions of things because the artist will do that. All in all, I reckon both books are excellent for what they are and it is a credit to the author that they've been received as positively as they have even in a format they were not meant for.

    Are these the only two Neil Gaiman books you've read?

    As for the point about spelling out characters' feelings, Richard Yates does much the same thing in every single one of his books as does Hemingway (albeit using situations more relevant to contemporary life - failed marriages, horrible jobs etc-). Does this mean you're unable to connect with those characters as well? Can you honestly say that as a woman you're unable to connect with Yvain's character when she falls in love with Tristan while he thinks he's in love with someone else? Have you never carried a torch for someone else?

    Also, the formats in which he's written the characters for do require characters to be slightly one dimensional as you cannot spend pages and pages fleshing a character out in a script or in a GN. Cut the guy some slack and read some of his other stuff before you write him off!

  4. But he has published both Stardust and Neverwhere as fictional books as well as graphic novels/screenplays, therefore the the book versions must be judged as actual books and not cut any slack just because the story line, ideas etc were originally found in a different form.

    Yates is the master at making one understand and empathise (although possibly not often like, which I don't feel is necessary to empathy) with his characters. I disagree with you that he spells out their feelings to the reader as on the contrary I think he beautifully conjures up their personalities and characters by developing them as people in an amazingly skilled way so that by the end of his books one feels like they know those characters inside and out. Where as the characters in the two Gaimen books mentioned are just named people who could do anything as they have been written with no real personalities.

    But all of that aside Gaimen is writing in a completely different genre to Yates and in the world of fantasy action, adventure and fantasy lands are of paramount importance. But I do still feel he could have developed his characters more.

    Have you seen the film of Stardust and if so is it worth watching?

  5. Which Yates books are you referring to? His characters are already set from the beginning. Revolutionary Road, you have the woman with her condescending airs and her small minded husband intent on trapping her in a marriage and that never changes. In The Easter Parade you have the woman whose life was never going to be any less pathetic. He writes them well,but I'm not sure there's any actual character development going on. The characters fill out, but they never break the mould they are cast in. I'm not disputing he's a brilliant writer though.

    Gaiman's character go through a transformation. Read Anansi boys and you'll see a character who starts out as a boring accountant and turns into a hero. These characters give a reader hope.

    Yes, I have seen Stardust. It's great for what it is. A fairy story with a feelgood factor. Definitely worth watching if you need a pick me up!