Friday, 3 January 2014

Neil Gaiman's Prose

OK. It is time to appreciate Neil Gaiman's prose writing. In "Talking After Midnight," the introduction to Midnight Days (New York, 1999), Gaiman writes:

"I'm writing this in the middle of the day: the sun shines gold through the leaves of late August.

"Most of these stories, however, were written after midnight, when the world was quiet and there was no-one left to talk to." (p. 3)

These sentences encapsulate the contrasting universal experiences of gold by day and quiet by night. A less observant author would have proceeded directly to discussing the contents of the stories without reflecting on the circumstances in which they were written or in which he, subsequently, was writing about them. 

Next, he conveys the pleasure of scripting a comic book:

"...there's a freshness to the ideas, and a delight in moving from panel to panel, a sense of the enjoyment a young writer is taking in the medium that I hope shines through..." (ibid.)

Not only does it shine through but we see it even more clearly after such an introduction.

Each of the items collected in the volume is individually introduced. The introduction to "Jack in the Green," recalls a conversation with Alan Moore about Gaiman's undrawn and unpublished script for a John Constantine story. Moore says:

"It was a long time ago. But I always liked that one." (p. 4)

Perhaps there is not much to appreciate in the way of prose writing here? Gaiman merely quotes what someone else said to him. However, there is skill even in choosing what to quote and in what context to quote it. These two sentences spoken by Alan Moore come right at the end of a page. Any phrase like, "It was a long time ago..." always evokes the passage of time and the sense of distance traveled. In this case, Gaiman has traveled from twenty-four year old journalist experimentally drafting a comic script to send to Alan Moore to celebrated, award-winning comics writer in his thirties yet that first, never used draft is still remembered with approval. In terms of distance traveled, the time has been longer for Gaiman than for Moore who was already a celebrated, award-winning comics writer.

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