The Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman : Creepy Quote of the Day

Dagger with silver hilt

Image: Pixabay


 

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even now you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet …

 


The lovely Mandibelle 16 has nominated me for the Three Quotes, Three Days – thanks Amanda – which is a lovely thread where bloggers post edifying quotes to inspire and encourage others.

Sadly, I find I am not the inspiring and encouraging type. So I thought I’d spin the prompt into something more ‘me’ and (it being the season for the scary) post some favourite quotes from crackingly terrifying books instead.

Today’s quote opens with one of the most arresting first lines I’ve read, from the wonderful The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I won’t be officially nominating anyone else to take up the mantle, but if you fancy a go…

How I fell in love at first sight

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Image: Pixabay

Do you believe in Love at First Sight?

Personally, I never believed. You see, I think to claim to be in love – really in love – you need to get to know the object of your desire a little first.

You have to discover that yes, he too went to a street party for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee where he ate sausage rolls and took part in a three-legged race. That he too watched Tiswas on Saturday mornings. That he bought Space Dust from the corner shop on his way home from school and instead of making it last, tipped the whole sachet onto his tongue and pressed his mouth up to his best mate’s ear so they could share its slightly painful, explosive joy.

You have to know that he loved Blackadder and The Young Ones, loathed Bernard Manning and Terry and June. You have to find that you both love guitar music and curry.

And that, even if you disagree on a few of the details, you bascially see the world the same way.

I’ve always thought that this Love at First Sight thing was pretty superficial. That all anyone is saying when they use this tired old cliche is that their primal instincts have kicked in and told them this largely symmetrical, fit, healthy person has strong genes. And maybe that person’s genes would look pretty good all mixed up with their own  …

So, Lust-At-First-Sight-As-A-Way-To-Make-Your-Genes-Live-On-Into-The-Next-Generation? Yes, I believe in that.

At least, that’s what I thought. Now, my whole life view might just have been turned upside down.

The object of my affection is small, medium build, brown with a healthy shine and a spotless, perfect exterior. 

But this isn’t a superficial, base craving. I looked past this beautiful ‘packaging’, to what was within, and from the very first word I was hooked, smitten, obssessed – yearning for the times when I can slip beneath the covers and spend time with my new love, enjoying every thrilling moment …

Shall I tell you the name of my obssession? It’s Neverwhere.

What do you mean, that’s a weird name for a man? What’s that got to do with it? Oh, I see. No, no my dears, my new obssession is entirely of the paperback variety. And shame on you for thinking otherwise …

You see, I so often find with books that it takes me a while to buy into the premise, or to begin to care about the characters, or to get caught up in their plight. I can spend chapters reading slowly, with little enthusiasm or drive, feeling more than a little Meh about what’s happening to whom, where, when and why.

Maybe I read too many of the wrong books too often*. But not this time.

From the beginning of Neverwhere** by Neil Gaiman, I knew I was going to love it …

 Eldritch old Scots women predicting dark futures involving doors, a young woman on the run, two sinister strangers with a penchant for knives and rat dinners all overlaid with humour as black as a midnight walk in a sewer

What’s not to love?

So, here’s a question for you chaps. How quickly have you fallen in love with a book? After the first chapter? The first page? Paragraph? Sentence? Or do you need to get to know a book before you fall?

***

*To be fair, I felt the same about the last book I read – The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Victorian London, brothels, prostitutes, dark filth-filled alleyways and prose you could melt into. Yum.

**Yes, I know. For a woman who claims to love all things dark, I’m coming very late to this Gaiman-shaped party. What can I say? I’m an idiot.

 

 

 

Spiders in literature: Man-eating monsters or pig-saving angels?

Ah, darling. She's got your eyes. Image: Pixabay

‘Ah, darling. She’s got your eyes.’ ‘Yes. Tell her to give them back, would you?’
Image: Pixabay

Well, what the hell do you think you’re doing there?

No, it’s not my reaction to the other half’s romantic overtures, but what I said to a spider this morning. I often speak to the household archnids and this one had just abseiled from the kitchen ceiling and was hanging a few inches from my nose.

Was she trying to get my attention? Was she just showing off her ability to weave silk from her abdomen? Was she about to wax lyrical on some subject of import – perhaps concerning the ongoing problems in Syria? I fear we shall never know, as after a few seconds she retreated to the flourescent tube.

Perhaps it was the worn down slippers and the felted surface of my favourite Winter jumper which has just emerged from its Summer holiday and will no doubt remain on my body until next April (barring occasional trips through the washing machine, natch). Perhaps those along with the bed head hair, made me resemble some terrifying creature that makes even an eight legged creature of nightmare retreat in horror. It’s possible.

Anyway, the encounter made me contemplate her kind in general. It is the season of the spider, after all. They’ve been strung, bloated and expectant like decorations nicked from the Addams Family’s Christmas Box, around my garden for weeks.

I don’t object to spiders  in the house or in the garden – and I’ll happily waste five minutes watching them spin their webby webs across the top of the kitchen window. We have a rather lovely, silky tunnel spanning it now and I rather like being able to pretend I live in a haunted mansion, complete with boas of webs and their inhabitants. 

It’s probably the old Goth on me.

Then, I remembered the scene from the film The Incredible Shrinking Man from 1957 (see below).

I watched a screening on TV when I was around seven and the scene where the hero fights off a ravenous spider had me fleeing behind the sofa more effectively than any Dalek, Cyberman or Sylurian could. 

The film’s based on the book, The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson – he of I Am Legend fame – and this got me wondering how many other fictional arachnids I could think of.

So, in honour of the season and as a terrifying taster for my Halloweeny-blog-a-thon next week, here’s some more lit-spids.

For arachnophobes …

Anansi in Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi is a spider god in human form, a mischief maker and teller of tall tales. The Anansi Boys of the title are Mr Nancy’s (Anansi’s) sons, Charlie and Spider who meet up after Nancy dies. Gaiman knows the arachnid is likely to terrify readers – young ones especially – which is probably why he compares the evil ‘Other Mother’ in Coraline to one. No one wants a Spider Mum.

Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling.

Giant, man-eating spider who lives in the Forbidden Forest with his brood. Raised by Hagrid – the daft lug – the thing is helpful at clearing up secrets, but still sets its kids to eating Harry and Ron, proving once and for all you just can’t house train a spider.

And for the arachnophiles amongst you …  

Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web by EB WhiteFinally proving that spiders are intelligent creatures willing to help others … As long as the ‘other’ in question is a pig called Wilbur.

And finally 

Incy WincyItsy Bitsy Traditional. There’s no denying Incy is hardworking, stoic, unbeatable. This little spider won’t let showers stop him from reaching his goal. But have you noticed the plot holes? What’s his motivation? Why is Incy so determined to climb that water spout? Is he just thick headed and a bit of a masochist?

Or is he heading for a secret rendevous with the spider from The Shrinking Man, so the two can implement their plans to enslave ant-kind and through them man? 

Think on.


Any inky spiders I’ve missed?

The red satin corset of shame: what the contents of your bookshelf reveals about you

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Ever worried someone might open the top of your skull and take a look at your brain?

Not in an physical, ‘err, it’s all pink and membraney and looks a bit like a blushing cauliflower’ sort of way, but in a ‘hell, what kind of twisted weirdness is this? And what’s that horrible, many tentacled thing hiding in the corner that looks like it wants to eat me’ kind of way’?

What I mean is, would you be worried if someone could see your inner workings (again, not the pink squidgy ones)?

We all have our secrets. I’ve written here before about how good people are at acting normal and how great kids are at showing their inner weirdo – well, outer weirdo … Just total, 100% weirdo.

If all adults feel they have to hide parts of themselves in order to fit in with all the other adults hiding parts of themselves and trying to fit in, are there unexpected ways in which these hidden depths ooze out, exposing the red-satin-corset-of-shame below the buttoned-down collar of respectability?

Before you begin to imagine I have a garage filled with life-sized, fully automated Lego models of serial killers or a catalogued assortment of ear wax, body hair and nail clippings, may I reassure you that I’m talking about books here.

Now, some people’s bookshelves may be filled with sumptuous leather bound volumes of Dickens, Hemingway, Austen and Hardy. Those volumes may be well-thumbed and oft read.  The owners may love the Classics, enjoy bathing in the warm joy of words, the love of literary genius.

Or they may just be snobs who want to show off an intelligence they don’t possess, mirrors only ever reflecting, never absorbing these wonders of erudition.

I’m guessing, though, that your bookshelf is very much like mine – a jumble of papery friends you’ve accumulated over the years. As with human friends, they’ll be some you love, that you return to time and again, that give back more each time you return to them.

But, you may also have the book equivalent of a friend-who-shouldn’t-really-be-a-friend, some piece of rubbish you picked up years ago. Maybe you’re not quite sure where or how they came into your life, you keep meaning to shake them off but can’t quite muster the energy to finally throw them out. 

So maybe, your bookshelf is a little like opening up your head and rummaging through its contents. Maybe it’s a window into your psyche, a little hint at still water running deep, or that you’re just a bit of an odd ball with a fixation with manhole covers, beer mat collecting and edible invertebrates.

From my own bookshelf, you’d learn I have a fascination for the Tudor period, especially the life of its seamen (note the spelling please).

You’ll also find a smattering of local history and dialect books, and Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England by Emily Cockayne – a fascinating book about dirty Georgians.

There’s plenty of fiction, of course. Books I read as a kid through to modern YA, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and, yes, some Classics – Dickens, Austen, Mary Shelley, George Elliott, Conana Doyle.

And beside the guides to fiction writing, the books to teach yourself crochet, knitting and gardening (because there’s surely nothing you can’t learn from books) there are some about fossils – and a lovely big picture book filled with skeletons.

So, imagine Sherlock Holmes was trying to work out my personality from the contents of my bookshelf, because let’s face it, that’s the kind of thing he’d do.

I’d be a maiden in some distress, probably with a large fortune and a good line in lace hankies and suspect male relations. From the contents of my shelves, Mr Holmes might learn a thing or two …

‘Our quarry has an erratic mind, Watson – do you see the jumble of tomes, one atop the other, seemingly without rhyme or reason. And the subject matter – from antiquity through to our own day? Surely a sign of derangement, a person who is at once juvenile and geriatric, with a dangerous preoccupation with the grimy underbelly of society, with darkness and with death.

‘Call a hansom cab at once. The game is afoot!’


What does the contents of your bookshelf reveal about you? Would your books on real crime surprise your Nan? Would your collection of French romantic poetry have your work colleagues passing out with shock?