Favourite chapter

My favourite chapter of The Graveyard Book.* Watch it if you haven't yet.

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.


Phiala said...

The point isn't to show your students perfection, tho it might be useful. The point is to teach them how to do it themselves, or to come as close as they can.

You know how to do that, right?

Jess said...

Hmm. I think I may have misjudged my comic timing a bit. Or in my enthusiasm for the book I've unwittingly implied that "perfection" itself is desirable and teachable. Sorry about that.

No, of course that isn't the point. Yes, of course I do know how to do that. You know you're in a bad workshop when the instructor holds up a piece of writing and says, "This is perfect. Do this." You know it's a really bad workshop when the piece in question was written by one of the students in the workshop.

I've got quite a bit of teaching experience behind me, and I know my subject. Please don't worry. I'm not one of those sort of teachers. ;)

Phiala said...

No, no, I'm intentionally being difficult! The "sarcasm" tags went missing.

Jess said...

Oh, Fods and skullcaps.

Well, in that case: Yes! That's exactly what e'll do, unless of course we're talking about my work, which we will each session for at least an hour. Then at the end we'll do a Big Reading featuring me reading stuff I like. That'll mostly be my stuff, of course.

What? What sarcasm tags? There are sarcasm tags? ;D

Phiala said...

There should definitely be sarcasm tags!

I must most urgently depart. Not only am I obviously not accomplishing anything work-related, tonight is the PSU homecoming parade, and if I don't leave soon I'll be stuck here forever! (Story idea: unsuspecting scientist trapped in the hell that is homecoming. With zombies. Of course.)

Jess said...

Eek! Go! Don't get stuck on campus! Have a good weekend!

Dragonsally said...

Okay, wow factor from your poem and Peake's piece(go on, try saying that quickly) have been overtaken by my incredible desire for someone to invent sarcasm tags.

We so need those tags.

Have you been peeking in the vegie drawer in our fridge?

Jess said...

Ooh! Ooh! Have you got celeriac too? I have no idea what to do with it!* \o/

(*100% FACT - no sarcasms here)

AletaMay said...

I love that chapter too! I have been listening to the audio book to fall asleep at night and I use that chapter often!

spacedlaw said...

Your husband hasn't seen Lorraine's marrots, then...

"Nothing like the threat of a captive audience to grease the ol' poetry gears."
I fully agree and that is why I post my stories as they go along...

I feel for the vegetables in your fridge, they seem so hopeless. Good poem, quite poignant.

CELERIAC: Peel, dice thinly and sauté in butter until golden.
Or peel, grate and serve with a remoulade salad sauce made of lemon juice, mustard and mayonnaise.

Dragonsally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dragonsally said...

Oops, comment for Fablos's blog put up at wrong place.
Comment for Jess's blog is...I got the book.

TOmorrow, I start the exercises.

Jess said...

Too late! I saw that you had ice cream. What flavour? I demand a full report. :D

Yay, the book came! Be sure to let me now how you get on.

Still have only two people signed up for my workshop, which starts next week. (What if I threw a workshop and no one came? Hmm. GUes we'll find out.) I'll teach two people, if that's all I have, but workshops tend to go a lot better with a slightly larger group. At least this will give me a chance to give some individual attention to the folks who are there...

I'm trying not to feel pathetic. Someone hold me! *sniffle* :{

Jess said...

Aaaaaand thank you for the Celery Root Advice, Nathalie! And I'm pleased you like the poem. I still feel like there's something missing, though. Either a thought, or a part of a rhythm, or both...hmm.

He has seen the Marrot. He said it looked delicious.

Dragonsally said...

you could hold it over the interwebs with me!

You have to be very fast in deleting comments, don't you....

damn fingers won't spell this morning

Jess said...

That is one spiffing idea, actually. Maybe I'll stick the lesson plans up here as we go, and anyone who wants to follow along can do so. :)

spacedlaw said...

Good idea Batman!

Jess said...

Quick! To the bat cave!