What makes a poignant story?

What a fantastic discussion of the the book Neverwhere! In our meeting Wednesday the most common comment was along the lines of “This isn’t a book I would normally read, but I liked it.”. My main question for the group now would be, why would you not normally read this sort of book? While some like Brian have answered this already in class mentioning that they used to read sci-fi but felt they had outgrown it, I still would love to know more reasons, and how this book kind of surprised you a bit.

We discussed the characters that were the most poignant and most agreed that Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were most effective. This was partially because of their plausibility in real life, and their undeniable ability to unsettle the reader. The group commented on how their professionalism helped the characters seem more real. Betsy noted that they always address each other properly as mister. Are there any other devices Gaiman uses with his characters that not only make them real but push the boundaries of the fantastic that you find particularly effective?

Finally, as can be seen in Pete’s comment, there is wonderful commentary that describes the relationship between London Above and Below. My favorite city commentary occurs on page 249 when Richard endures the ordeal ” London Transport would like to apologize for the delay. This is due to an incident at Blackfriars Station. ‘To do that.’ said Gary, incline his head. ‘Become an incident at Blackfriars station. To end it all.”  It’s another jolting quote like the one Pete brought up. It takes something we take for granted, London sewers, train delays, and brings them to the forefront. Noone here thinks about the sewers and their health, and most people hear ‘Person Under Train’ and get annoyed that their stop is down. Are these views from London Below effective social commentary? Does this joining of the two and comparing them help make London Below more believable to you as the reader? Or does it push you away a bit?

Just some food for thought and remarking on some of the things that were said at the meeting. I hope you all enjoyed your trip to a different London and now it’s time to introduce the next book which Anne will be presenting. Next up, London Fields.

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2 Responses to What makes a poignant story?

  1. Thanks, Crystal, for introducing us to this text, and your insightful reading of Gaiman’s story. My own reading relates it to other kinds of London narratives which play with the notion of the city as a layered space; sharing with Gaiman’s story a subversive focus on the marginal vagrants, Peter Ackroyd’s ‘Hawksmoor’, links the mysterious occurrences in late 20th-century London to the occult terrain of the city’s historical past. I am particularly interested, too, in a notion of time as space, or of a space which can accommodate, simultaneously, more than one action. Like Ackroyd, psychogeographers Iain Sinclair and Alan Moore have explored this idea to a great extent in their respective retellings of the Whitechapel murders (‘Whitechappel, Scarlet Tracings’; ‘From Hell’), which go as far as suggesting that specific focal points in London’s topography become hubs of the city’s occult energy. On a different level, Gaiman’s parallel London reminded me of Will Self’s ‘dead London’ in the short story ‘The North London Book of the Dead’, which you can read online:http://f2.org/humour/northdead.html.

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