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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Graveyard Book

When our friend Martin left, he left us a handful of wonderful books. (As I mentioned, he is a great reader, and one of the common experiences of expat life is the "pass-along" when someone leaves.)

I've already finished one of the books he left, Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic. I had read a bit of Gaiman before (American Gods, and his and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens), so I was delighted to get my hands on this one. It did not disappoint. "Chivalry" was one of the best short stories I've read, about an old lady who finds the Holy Grail in a second-hand shop; and "Troll Bridge," about a boy's deal with a troll (you guessed it) under a bridge, nearly made me weep.

But the best of the lot was an odd, quite long, story at the end, "The Witch's Headstone." It was amazing, but it felt somehow unfinished.

When I read a few reviews of M is for Magic, I found out why. "The Witch's Headstone" is Chapter Four of a longer work, called The Graveyard Book. And, as luck and rampant piracy would have it, I found The Graveyard Book online. Today I read it.

It tells the story of "Bod," actually "Nobody Owens," a little boy who raised by the residents of a graveyard. The structure, the title, and even some stories, were meant as homage to Kipling's The Jungle Book, which I've read twice since coming to China. But Gaiman's book embodies a mystery-with-a-small-m, about the murder of Bod's family, while being filled with Mystery-with-a-big-M about living between two worlds, the world of the living and that of the dead.

It's meant for kids, but I couldn't "put it down" (well, I read it on my computer, so I guess I couldn't "turn it off"). I highly recommend it.

Here's today's new material:

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