Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Here in the sanctuary people don't exist. Their memories do stretched from a remote sense of belonging to an overstretched feeling of nothingness. When music plays from a beaten record player, one can hear movements. Movements different from the newly-dead stirring in disbelief as the morning breaks. The plague burns the land and the cancers spreads in the limbs. The doctors are nothing but old-world romantics who've given up arguing and sent the missionaries back to their soil. In a world, the only faith in belief is in the absence of it. There are babies in the river and the sun is covered in blood. The only dust rises in the moonlight when rabid dogs howl and foam on lonely desert nights. What spreads in the mind is no form of conceit but a vague transient of discomfort of what was promised and taken. The land no longer depends on men but mere imaginary boundaries that separates between the good and evil. Even in sadness, a momentary chasm drills into the consciousness. Poets end up taking their eyes because they no longer rely on what they see. A commotion of abuse runs in the streets, silently ensuring that everyone feeds and turns to mud as the rest rise and fall in darkness.
The sanctuary is a grave. Where no morphine can put any to rest. Here people only moan and groan, those who ramble are no real talkers. They are shifty drifters waiting for acceptance and denying boredom. Their potato wine is no posion but a declaration of war.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A graveyard is not normally a democracy, and yet death is the great democracy, and each of the dead had a voice, and an option as to whether the living child should be allowed to stay, and they were each determined to be heard, that night.

Is children’s literature only for the likes of Tiny Tim and underage toddlers? Take for example, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — see how twisted and surreal interpretations the story had over years?
Even writers like Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton — the classic children storytellers — wrote fantasy in such simplicity, it was as though they were writing for two parallel worlds and that they could maneuver conveniently between them. That some of their works have had graver undertones, an imagery of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in them. (Dahl would write short-stories for adults as well, and those gave a clearer sense of macabre with knife-like twists. And an allusion to Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree in Alan Moor’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta, would surface a strange irony.)
Much to that effect is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which, despite its structure, can be argued that it isn’t just a children’s story. We meet Nobody Owens, our protagonist, a ghost-like kid, who is not a wizard, but is better mannered than Harry Potter.
He, too, like Harry has a past; at a very early age, Bod (short for Nobody) escapes death as a man called Jack slaughters his family. This is how the story begins. Little does Bod know that as he crawls into a graveyard late at night, the graveyard would be his new home.
Bod finds a ghost couple who start taking care of him as their own. His guardianship is taken care by Silas who is a quiet, wise and much-travelled ghost, and one whom Bod turns to with his child-like existential questions. Silas also provides the bare essentials that one needs to grow up in a graveyard as well as his strange education.
The beauty of Gaiman’s storytelling is again in its simplicity — Bod’s little misadventures while growing up as well as his search for his family’s killer are shown almost sympathetically. The story also tells the tale of ghosts, in a way, paying homage to the spirit of the dead. That those misunderstood in life and buried in the ground also live by certain arrogance and principles; that despite the secret why Bod can transient easily between the living and the dead, is eventually revealed when he has to leave the graveyard.
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