Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, 2008
December 16, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , , ,


On a rainy day in her new home, Coraline Jones’ mother shows her a door that opens to a brick wall. But over a stretch of the overcast and final days leading up to a new school year, Coraline discovers a hallway through the door identical to her own home that leads to her apartment, her house, her yard. It’s a strange world slightly off kilter from Coraline’s reality and here she meets her other mother and other father: strange likenesses of her parents with buttons for eyes (and that want to sew Coraline’s eyes closed). When Coraline’s real parents go missing, she must return through the door to save them.

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a children’s horror book written with children in mind, for children, and with the structural simplicity of children’s books. Coraline has thematic issues of losing and rescuing parents, searching for home, and exterior and interior realities. And it’s all a bit gruesome as the world is slightly off and includes button-eyed people, rats (enough to creep me out), and a hand that chases Coraline. I will say from reading the quotes on the book jacket I expected something stupendous and I thought it was fair (though I do look forward to the movie). I found it similar to Vivian French’s Robe of Skulls.

Conclusion: Tossed.

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Book Related Musings

I have been devouring the German author Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books. My recent devotion to this novel is a mix of my adoration for my books, the sensational story line, and Moers brilliant hand at writing. Particularly after my dry spell with more recent books, I am thrilled that I have stumbled into the land of Zamonia and to be led on adventures by such a brilliant author. This, however, is not my final look at the book.

The City of Dreaming Books (and the rest of Moers’ books) are located in fiction, but they are undoubtedly fantasy. One reason I have such respect for Moers is his talent at constructing a fantastical locale. Fantasy authors (or anyone writing of something fantastical) are challenged in at least one manner other authors are not: they are creating something, someone, or somewhere that is entirely unreal. Of course in most fantasy books you will find remnants of reality but a fantasy author must be well schooled in suspension of disbelief. However, one area of suspension of disbelief that I have not seen too many conversations on is the length of development.

Moers provides exactly perfect size slice of fantastical narrative and he does this over and over again. I have often come across fantasy authors (including those I love to those I loathe) who spend a great deal of time constructing the fantasy and the reader easily becomes bored, and on the other hand there are fantasy authors who spend such little time on one area and spend a great deal of time skipping from one idea to the next that the reader is left unsatisfied. Moers repeatedly provides perfection.

This brings me to something else I have been musing about lately. Not too long ago a ripple of excitement spread throughout the world when J.K. Rowling disclosed that Dumbledore was gay. What I was most interested were critical reactions to this. Neil Gaiman, another fantasy author, in short said that when you create a world you always have to leave details out. In some of the more academic communities I peruse the general reaction was: bunk.

Where is this all going? No where, but I did find this division between fantasy (which has had quite the difficult time in being viewed as “acceptable”) and fiction a fascinating discussion.

I must thank the Google image search for this post’s image found at HectorCasanova.net.