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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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

The 50 Mile Challenge

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I don’t think I’ve ever ever despised something with as much vitriol as i utterly hate running. Looking back, though, I can’t help but think that this was bound to happen. As soon as I started going back to the gym regularly I got to thinking—you know, that other thing I do besides sweating while I’m on a freaking treadmill—and I asked myself, how many miles have I actually run? How many combined calories is that? Am I getting better or worse at this monstrous, abominable activity?

And there are times when, despite my affinity for technology, I’m not particularly intelligent about it. I discovered this week that Nike+ has a running app for the iPhone that stands alone and doesn’t require a shoe sensor. I was surprised and delighted because I hate spending money and, accordingly, love free things! I loaded up the app and went for a run on Wednesday, which was agony because I’m awful at running outdoors and horrifyingly out of shape, but it was really really cool to see my route and assorted information.

One of the more courageous features of the app is that it invites you to set challenges for yourself, and to invite others to participate in those challenges with you. I set a semi-realistic goal of 50 miles by the end of August. I see it like this: I already go to the gym 3 times a week and run, on average, 2.4 miles on each visit, so my ability to output miles is there. I need to complete, on average, 1.6 miles a day or 3.3 across 15. I honestly think I can accomplish that, so I set it as my goal.

That being said, I’m not just blindly charging into this one. Runners World has a great 8 week training guide that I’ve been working with to build endurance (and no, I’m not remotely interested in running an actual marathon), but the sore spot in the real world is that I need a good way of tracking my time without glancing at my watch/phone. That’s my number one complaint with the Nike+ app: it doesn’t allow you to set interval timers for those of us who need to build that endurance.

I downloaded IntervalTimer to compliment the Nike+ app; I plan to put it to use for the first time tomorrow. I’m going to revisit my original route by Lake Hodges, where I posted an abysmal 12’57” average (though my best was 10:04 mile, which is only a smidgen more than 9’50” mile from early July) and see if I can’t make some modest improvements.

7/31/13 Mile Times

50 Miles seems within reach, all things considered. I have 4 down, 46 to go. I’m all decked out and ready to run—if begrudgingly. If you have Nike+ and want to add me as a friend or just want to keep tabs on my progress, feel free to visit my Nike+ page. Otherwise, check back here throughout the month for periodic reports on my status.

Here’s to a challenging month!