Neil Gaiman, the master story teller about dark alleyways, cemeteries and wandering boys and girls brings us face to face with the eternal dance of life and death on every page. Death is ever present where life is. Courage and bravery need to fight through the shadow of fear and uncertainty in every story.
In Gaiman’s introduction to Trigger Warning, he says:
“There are little things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of our mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious punches into the gut, killing time until we come back that way.
The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like the mold beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.”
These lurking fears and ready to fight monsters are a recurring theme in Gaiman’s work and can be seen in flow in Neverwhere, Coraline, The Wolves in The Walls, Sandman (series) and The Graveyard Book. In The Graveyard Book, the evil is not from the land of the dead alone; the living dangers in Bod’s life are perhaps more terrifying than the ones he sees in ghouls and monsters.
Our fears, our apprehensions we tie into a bundle and put in the very back of our mental almirahs, not wishing to see them very often. They are part of our mental cupboards unfortunately, and it is better we find and arm ourselves with better coping mechanisms for when the monsters, or sad memories seek to debilitate us next.
“We build stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what others see. I wonder. Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and daymares, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.”
More recently Gaiman visited the UNHCR camp in Azraq camp, Jordan to see first hand and write about the human displacement from Syria that is unfathomable and heart rending. You can read Gaiman’s article ‘So Many Ways to Die In Syria‘. Click on the link to read more detailed reviews of Coraline and The Graveyard book