I've been wanting to do a bloggy review of The Graveyard Book for about a week now, but the only things I can think to say are oh, and also wow, and cor, and perfect. It is: it's perfect. Just astonishing. And the Danse Macabre happens right in the middle of the book! Of course it does! Perfect!
But it's something other than wowsome perfection: it's that same shiver I feel when I read the "Time Passes" section of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, or the suicide in "The Roses Were Stones" portion of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan,** or the moment Kurt Vonnegut steps into Breakfast of Champions to speak with Kilgore Trout-- or even that point in Gene Wolfe's Shadow and Claw at which the reader witnesses, amidst feudal chaos and decay, a robot (a real robot, by golly!) become fully himself. In those ecstatic moments of a novel, themes and language and character meet for a crescendo and the story takes hold. You understand, as a reader, that you never ever want to leave it. You shiver. You lose a breath. You hear the music in the author's head.
That Gaiman marks the crescendo with music and a dance is...well, perfect. And why say more than that? Why should I be oversimple to talk about delight?
The heck with exercises. I can't go and teach a writing course now, when someone's gone and written that. Sit 'em down in front of the video tour and tell them to pay attention, that's what I'll do. Yeah: six weeks, couple of chapters a night. Sorted.
(Oh, of course I won't really, silly beans.)
*I do read other authors too. Honestly.
**Peake, Mervyn. Titus Groan, Book One of The Gormenghast Trilogy. London: Arrow Books Limited, 1992. p. 324.
An excerpt of the suicide scene. Listen:
Her head, turning, was dimensionless. A thong about her neck supported the proud carvings of her lovers. They hung across her breasts. At the edge of age, there was a perilous beauty in her face as of the crag's edge that she stood upon. The last of footholds; such a little space. The colour fading on the seven-foot strip. It lay behind her like a carpet of dark roses. The roses were stones. There was one fern growing. It was beside her feet. How tall?...A thousand feet? Then she must have her head among far stars. How far all was! Too far for Flay to see her head turned-- a speck of life against that falling sun.
Upon his knees he knew that he was witness.
I mean! Phew. Cor. Blimey.