A man cannot step into the same river twice, Heraclitus taught, because it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.
Sometimes I read a book or watch a film and it just doesn’t gel with me. I can recognize the quality, perhaps, but I’m just not in the state in which I can enjoy it or appreciate it. Thus, in these Redeem Yourself segments – in which I return to a book that I’ve previously reviewed – I won’t specify whether it is the book or myself that I feel is in need of redemption when I get it another shot. Feel free to speculate.
So I read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book again, and I think I have a clearer understand of why this book doesn’t wow me like so much of Neil Gaiman’s work does, as much as I liked it. The book is arranged in chapters that are essentially short stories, much in the same mode that Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The chapters span the years of Bod’s childhood and gradually weave into the larger story of those that murdered Bod’s family when he was but a baby.
This is the crux of lack of impact I feel. Each chapter is terrific – some more than others, of course – but so many of them, while they develop themes and develop Bod as a character, don’t push along the plot. The chapters that work the best for me are those which bring Bod closer to confrontation with his enemies.
The final chapter does much to tie together Bod’s adventures, but it is in some sense too late for me. I didn’t feel the rising action all the while, so when we reach the climax, it seems as though I’ve only climbed a hill rather than scaled a mountain. And so much of Gaiman’s work is Alpine.
Each story is a star, but they don’t, for me, assemble into a constellation. So, while I enjoy the book and admire it, it doesn’t fill me hope, sentimentality, and joy (among other emotional cocktails) that I’ve come to expect from Gaiman’s work.
But, hey. It won a Hugo, and nabbed both the Newbury and Carnegie Medals. So, as LeVar Burton used to say, don’t take my word for it.