Friday, February 10, 2012

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a way of writing that makes you feel like you have spiders crawling under your skin. With Coraline, it didn't feel like arachne. It felt like nails against the back of your neck, like the hot breath of a nightmare served over the mental-maggot takeout from Lost Boys.

Coraline steps through a door she is curious about, mostly because it's locked. And you can't tell a child or a woman you can't open a door, because they will. It happened with Pandora and it happened with Coraline, but if both the box and the door weren't opened, the world would have continued to be boring. So, good thing for women and children and curious cats. This particular door is filled with a world lurking in the dark; a world that, for several reasons, will definitely feed your dreamcatcher at night.

One of those reasons is a simple one: buttons. There's something entirely creepy about people without eyes, because they somehow seem to see you better. Like they're mentally feeling you up - not like a rockstar would, but like a demon doll would, while it's sitting in its little high chair and plotting how to kill you with porcelain eyes. So when people have buttons instead of eyeballs, I get a little wigged out.

Coraline handled it much better than if I were her. There's something very admirable about being a little girl and not screaming and crying like a little girl. I mean, Coraline was a force in this book. And she was scared, obviously, because who wouldn't be with a button-eyed wench on your trail and the imagination of a child in a dark place. But she kept walking and whistling, because: "She thought it might make it harder for things to jump out at her if she was whistling." I totally use this tactic too - especially when I learned to drive and thought maybe my car would be immune to curbs if I whistled happy things. It didn't work, but I doubt if I were in a dark hall filled with monsters, I'd be able to whistle. So, Coraline, props.

There's also something unnameable about the otherworldly quality of this book. It's not like it takes place in a dream, but more like it takes place in the cracks on the sidewalk and the reflection in your mirror, places that are there but you can't completely see into. It's a world that is a false version of Coraline's real world, which makes it even more terrifying - because as much as the imagination can create terror, versions of reality can create it better. 

Like in one of the most spine-tingling quotes of the book: "'Now Coraline,' said Miss Spink, 'what's your name?'" The idea of a question that already has an answer is only creepy when it's asked by someone with a false skin. And this entire book is bathed in creepy.

52 comments:

  1. Ooo, sounds amazing! I wanted to read this after the movie came out and then I totally forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder! I love creepy books (as long as it's well before bedtime).

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  2. I love this book! It's so creeptastic. I think your review hits on the salient points of this book in a much more articulate way than mine did :P

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  3. great review - i wanna read this now!

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  4. Yes, I loved this book. It really is true that Neil Gaiman is the master of creepy! Have you read his picture book, "The Wolves in the Walls?"

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  5. Coraline is one of Gaiman's best. I can't stand when people avoid it because they think it's "just a kid's book." Have you seen the movie? Henry Selick really did a brilliant adaptation.

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  6. I haven't read Coraline, but the movie did a good job capturing that creepy feeling. Another great "children's book" of Gaiman's is The Graveyard Book. Great review!

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  7. I love the movie version but I've yet to check out the book! I need to get on that. Wonderful review.

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  8. I listened to this one on audio and it was fantastic! :)

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  17. Coraline is a story that begs -- no, demands -- to be read aloud. Usually the problem is that someone has to be the reader, while the listeners get to experience the full effect and thrill of the story. Let the author be the reader, and indulge yourself in the sheer delight of hearing a wonderful story told well.

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  19. "Coraline" is a fantastic read for all ages, genders and critters. This is a book to read late at night when huddled under the covers with a flashlight. The gothic feel of this book will please long-time Neil Gaiman fans as well as fans of classic dark fairy tales.

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