Book Review: The Graveyard Book

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THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman was recommended to me last Christmas by an individual that I thought least likely to ever recommend any type of fantasy literature. That person raved and raved about it and then went on to teach me a lesson in stereotypes by outlining their other favorite fantasy novels, but I started with Neil Gaiman’s phenomenal novel, The Graveyard Book.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK BY NEIL GAIMAN

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK BY NEIL GAIMAN

I have to admit that this was my first ever Gaiman novel, though I knew the author’s name because I saw the movie version of STARDUST some years ago. I enjoyed STARDUST and promised myself that I would one day read the book, but while I never made the time for that I squeezed in the episode of DOCTOR WHO written by Gaiman, “THE DOCTOR’S WIFE”, and I was very impressed. Since then, I’ve had a strange fringe-relationship with Gaiman where I’m familiar-ish with the author despite never having technically ‘read‘ a word of his writing. When The Graveyard Book came to me so highly recommended from a person that I deeply respect, I picked it up without a moment’s delay.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is, perhaps, one of the most difficult books to adequately review that I’ve ever encountered. It is one of those rare novels that examines the most valuable question that anyone has ever asked: what’s the purpose of life? The novel follows Bod Owens, a toddler who has escaped a dark fate and is taken in, quite literally, by the nearby graveyard and the phantoms that inhabit it. Its ghosts and tombs and natural beauty become the little boy’s home and there he grows up, all the while learning more about the world he must be protected from, until the day when the dangers of his past catch up with him.

But do you want to know the truth? That might be what this book is about, but really it’s not about that at all. Gaiman is telling a personal, intimate story in this book. Not about himself, not necessarily, but certainly about everyone. This is a story about death, about growing up and growing old, and about Life.

I’ve read some of the most stirring passages that I’ve ever encountered in my career as a reader within this novel. I love that it’s a children’s book that is still so dangerously adult. I love that I honestly wanted to cry at the end of this book—not manly, crocodile tears but little kid tears.

That, I think, is what The Graveyard Book is about.

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One Birthday in Three Photos

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First, I helped my sister move into her sweet new digs. Then we ate Chipotle for lunch.

Then I went to the bookstore. It was my birthday, so I did not hold back.

Lastly, I had an amazing dinner with my family followed by (chocolate!) cake.

A great 25th Birthday!

A Quarter of a Century (OR: Happy Birthday to Me!)

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When it comes right down to a list of people that make the world infinitely more acceptable than it would otherwise be in their absence, I’m pretty damned sure that my name is somewhere near the top. On August 3rd, 1988 little adorable me was born. I don’t profess that I’ve always known what I was doing—indeed, I hardly ever know what I’m doing—but I’ve certainly tried my best at it anyways.

I wish I had more of a speech planned, more of an epic post that ponders the meaning of life and my progressive advancement through it. With twenty five years of existence to my name, I’ve assembled a trove of borderline narcissistic views on the world tempered to perfection by my idiosyncratic sarcasm. I would dispense with my bounty of sage wisdom but it really boils down to this:

Do more of what you love and survive everything else as best as you can.

Too few of us are lucky (or rich) enough to merge what we love with what we do. Some of us love photography and flip burger patties for a living. Some of us love writing and work retail. Whatever it is that you love to do in the world, be it writing or reading or photographing or running or jumping, do more of it. As far as advice goes, it sounds simple enough but the reality is that it’s really freaking hard. If you manage to do that, if you turn down the volume of the white noise despite being unable to tune it out completely—the world becomes amazingly more bearable.

I think 25 years on this Earth has, at the very least, managed to impart that lesson. What 25 years hasn’t imparted upon me is a mature visage—some lady straight up told me that I look like a teenager the other day; which is a weird problem to have and therefore, as is right and rational with all weird problems, it must be mine.

Since I’m not above saying to myself: happy birthday to me! Though, the real gift has been to mankind for these past 25 years. What would you all have done with me?

And the obvious answer there is nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

:D

Birthdays and Buffets

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Add this one to the ever-growing list of strange but not necessarily unpleasant birthday stories—

This year I’m turning 25. A quarter of a century.

In the same year that I was born, way back in 1988, the Winter Olympics were held in Canada (which likely explains at least part of my affection for all things Canadian, eh?). The first McDonalds to ever open in a Communist country opened in Yugoslavia. And Mehran Karimi Nasseri began his 17 year long stay in Charles du Galle Airport in Paris.

I’ve noticed that one of those cliched truths that your parents espouse about growing up is, shockingly, true. They said that family will always be the most important thing in my life. They said to always stick together. They said be nicer to my brother. All these things they said, which were easily dismissed when I was 16-21 and happy to be doing my own thing, were completely true as I move further and further into “real” adulthood.

I have a huge, hilarious group of siblings. I refer to them at work and outside the family circle as “my clan of siblings,” because there’s 5 of them (and there’ll officially be 6 once my sister gets married, because my pending brother-in-law has been around so long that he’s practically got tenure) and that’s not counting boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others, current or future.

So my birthday is August 3rd and my future brother-in-law’s is July 31. We’re both rabid fans of the Barona Resort & Casino buffet and me, being the brilliant guy I am, suggests that me, him, and my sister truck out there for a delicious, if extremely fattening, birthday buffet night. See, I can share like a good boy…

While we’re discussing this my other sister asks if she can come too, a little indignantly, because there we were planning this elaborate dinner scheme in front of her without inviting her. Poor form on our part, I confess, but two sisters and one fiancé are on board with the Birthday Buffet at this point so attendance is shaping up nicely. I call my brother and ask if wants to come too. Brother says no, he has work, and I don’t really push it and leave it at that because I was a poor college student once too.

This morning, I’m at work, and my phone angrily explodes with activity. I’ve missed three texts and one call from my youngest sister—who’s pissy because I didn’t invite her on the Birthday Buffet excursion. I cover my ass by saying that I thought she was out of town (that’s what my parents told me) and, of course, invite her along too. The more the merrier, right? She not-so-suavely fishes for an invitation for her boyfriend, which I don’t have a problem with, and they’re set.

So at this point I’m up three sisters, one boyfriend, and one future brother-in-law that I’m sharing this Birthday Buffet with, so this is a pretty good group already.

Sometime after lunch my phone goes off again. It’s my brother asking if we can go somewhere else because Barona is expensive. I offer to pay for him because I’m nothing if not my siblings’ piggy bank and he, unsurprisingly, is in. 6:30 pm rolls around and I’m done at work—I call my sister because they’re all meeting in San Diego and leaving from there while I drive down from Carlsbad. My sister answers and promptly informs me that we’ve also picked up my youngest brother, who is 8 and the life of any party, and that he will be accompanying us to the Birthday Buffet Extravaganza.

If you’re having trouble keeping count, here’s the final tally: three sisters, one boyfriend, one future-brother-in-law (who I’m sharing this Birthday Buffet Extravaganza with, mind you), and two brothers (one of whom is 8 and, I’m not ashamed to admit this, is totally my favorite).

If there is a God, then I’m pretty sure that he’s ashamed by the things we did at that buffet. I mean we were just indecent at certain points. Maybe it was the gluttony? I had two entrees and three deserts. Maybe it was using the Lord’s name in vain? My sister shouted “Walk with Jesus!” at me as I headed for the desert stand. Maybe it was lust? Our waitress actually trotted out a pitcher of Diet Coke for us.

In the end, we won’t know for sure exactly how disappointed God was this evening until we die—which could very well be tonight, given how clogged our arteries must be. I don’t regret a minute of it and, for what started out as a three person excursion that expanded into a group of my favorite people on Earth, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Happy Birthday…to me…and also to Steven, I guess…

Taylor and Steven, David, Alex, Amanda and Daniel, and Logan…you’re my favorite human beings in the history of my life. Thanks for a great 25th birthday!

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