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.


Blogger The Dude said...


I see our last little conversation on this subject ignited a little something in you my friend. Im glad.

Very nice post, really enjoyed it and good to see you spreading your wings on writing topics a little more like the old days. Keep at it, one must hold on to that which means the most to them personally. Its a large part of who we are.

Remind me to give you a copy a book called "Coraline" which btw I think of a little as akin to an Alice in Wonderland for a new age. ;)

Take care brother.

12:14 PM, November 06, 2008  
Blogger vatsala said...

you guys have been around :) Ive moved to bbay ! tell me if youre coming to town.

10:16 AM, November 07, 2008  

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