This month, I’m participating in a read-along of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, as part of R.I.P. We’re looking at a few chapters a week, with no specific questions for each post. This week’s discussion is on chapters 4-6. See my first post here.
I want to start by saying I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone else’s thoughts on the book; it’s definitely made me think about new aspects of the story, or consider some angle I hadn’t thought of.
For instance, I’ve seen some comparisons to Tim Burton–and I can completely see that! There’s a very Burtonesque aspect to the depiction of the ghosts and the supernatural beings, who come across in some ways as more “alive” and engaging than the living characters. That’s the entire focus of Corpse-Bride, and we see it here too. Bod’s friends and loved ones are all dead or supernatural. In this section of the book particularly, we see Bod venture out among living people–who are far less friendly and much more threatening.
This line of thought has also led me to very much want an animated movie (or maybe miniseries, it’s so episodic) of the book–screenplay by Neil Gaiman and directed by Tim Burton. Obviously that would mean Johnny Depp as the voice of Silas, Helena Bonham Carter as the voice of the Lady on the Grey, and possibly Christopher Lee as the voice of the man Jack. So if it ever happens, remember–you saw it predicted here!
Anyway, on to this section of the book…
I think Chapter 4 is one of my favorite chapters. Bod meets the ghost of Liza, who was drowned and burned (both) as a witch and buried without a marker. He decides that he wants to buy her a headstone, and ventures out of the graveyard to find a place that sells them. I love Liza, who is so up and down and friendly and spooky all together. I love that Bod wants to get her a headstone just because it’s right for her to have one. It would be so easy to make her really nice or a perfectly innocent victim. Then it would still be admirable, but somehow I think it would make his action less. It would become an act of charity, or simpler in some way. As-is, I think he’s doing it just because it’s right.
Chapter 5 is about “the dance Macabray,” the rare night when the dead and the living gather in the old town and dance together. I love the eeriness of that concept, and I love the descriptions of the unearthly music and the magical dance. I do have to say that as someone who normally pronounces macabre as “ma-cob,” the constant use of “Macabray” made me wince…but I looked it up and apparently there are multiple correct pronunciations. Maybe it’s a British/American thing.
After Chapter 5, we have a brief interlude that shows us the man Jack again, though it doesn’t tell us much except that he’s still after Bod. He’s a convocation, and even though the speaker is talking about philanthropic work, the mere fact of the man Jack’s presence makes me deeply suspicious about this group. And I am reminded of a group in The Sandman Chronicles. There was a kind of murderers convention, especially for really twisted murderers. That was aroundwhen I stopped reading those graphic novels, so it’s just as well we don’t get more specifics here about the man Jack’s group…
Chapter 6 sees Bod attempting again to venture out of the graveyard, this time to go to school. There are some fantastic things in here–I mean, he uses graveyard powers to fight bullies! Love that! Though I do think Silas could have been a little more proud of him, even if it was a bit stupid.
As touched on above, Bod meets far more frightening people among the living than he does in the graveyard, and I love that inversion of expectations. It’s also interesting that Bod doesn’t decide to hide among the ghosts–he still feels drawn towards the living. There’s a lovely bit (which of course I can’t find right now!) when Silas talks about how, for the living, there are always possibilities, always the potential for growth and change and making an impact on the world.
That’s my philosophical thought for this section. 🙂 I believe the next (final) section will be tying up some of the background threads from the beginning of the book, and I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together.
And, of course, to seeing everyone else’s thoughts on this part of the book!