Smoke And Mirrors (Neil Gaiman)

Urgh of the day, courtesy of Galatea 2.2 (Richard Powers):
“You cut up monkeys?” I whispered to Diana. “Rhesus pieces?”

The other book I finished yesterday was Smoke And Mirrors, and let me just say that if I were Neil Gaiman, no child of mine would ever be allowed to read any of my writing (except the books specifically meant for children) until they were at least 15 and I was satisfied they were emotionally stable.

He has a knack of finding the nightmare elements that lurk in everyday life (and in the wonderings of any imaginative kid lying awake in bed) and fleshing them out from fringe dwellers of reality to full-fledged, card-carrying members of the Scary Things Which Really Exist, Really community.

Perhaps I’m assuming an overly-protective parental persona here, but I still remember 15-year-old me eying clowns and dolls (except if they were Barbies, in which case I’d have fond memories of childhood haircut cum decapitation afternoons) with trepidation, and all this without watching It or Child’s Play, mind you.

But it’s not so much that I think reading Neil Gaiman would terrify a child, because that depends on the child, I guess. I think what bothers me is that the suggestion a child gets from reading Neil Gaiman is that nothing is ever quite what it seems. That there are dark undertones to everything, that bide their time and lie in wait for the unfortunate and unwary. And I think that childhood (and, perhaps, old age) are the rare times in life that you should be allowed to embrace certainties. You can always trust Mummy. Snow White was good, the mean queen was bad. Your jack-in-the-box isn’t evil.

Ironically, one of the reasons Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers is precisely this ability he has to subvert the order of things, to cast menacing shadows on familiar objects. And that’s why I thoroughly enjoyed Smoke And Mirrors. But I wouldn’t read those stories to a child.

I wonder what bedtime stories have been told in the Gaiman household.