Archive for August, 2009


Graveyards and Greed

   Posted by: Jill White    in Book Review, national news

In the spirit of catching up, I will be posting some things I wrote while I was laid up last winter and spring.  Here is one of them:

I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.  It is a fairytale (?) about a little boy, Nobody Owens, who grows up in a graveyard.  He is raised by ghosts and a vampire guardian – Silas – who really is responsible for his survival since he’s the only one who can leave the graveyard and bring back food for Nobody.  Silas also brings him toys and books and teaches him to read.  He tries to bring his grammar and knowledge of the world up to date, which is a good thing, as his primary caretakers, the Owens’, died in the 1830s and weren’t much for reading while they lived.  His other main pal is the first-buried, a Roman, Carius, who was buried around 100 BC.  Bit outdated in his notions.

Nobody, or Nob, is there because a very bad man named Jack murdered his entire family in their sleep.  He escaped and crawled into the graveyard (at 18 mos).  The ghost of his freshly murdered mother went screaming through the cemtary and begged the Ownes and other denizens to protect her baby.  So they did. 

Trusty Gaiman.  He never disappoints.  It is an absolutely delightful story.  How he’s able to create such affection so quickly for such dark and creepy creatures.  Who else – besides Tim Burton – would even conceive of a boy being raised by a bunch of ghosts, vampires, witches and werewolve?  I won’t spoil the pleasure of reading it for all of you by telling what happens.

After finishing it, I noticed that on the back, among the praise for the book was this, from Laura Hamilton, “After finishing [it] I had only one thought – I hope there’s more.  I want to see more of the adventures of Nobody Owens, and there is no higher praise for a book.”

I, too, will regret leaving Nobody Owens to his life and not knowing what happens next.  But it struck me again that this demand of ours for stories that go on and on – singles that become trilogies that become series – is yet another sign and symptom of our greed and our collective lack of self-discipline.

Why is “the highest praise” for a book that it creates a desire for more?  That it serves our endless round of stimulate, consume, stimulate, consume”  but in which or by which we can never be satisfied because we no sooner have the thing than we are looking forward to the next thing?

Why isn’t the highest praise: “That was the whole story.  S/he told a complete, satisfying, engaging and True story that touched me, changed the way I perceived the world forever.  And it is done.  It is complete in itself.  It satisfies all the desires it creates.”  I would much rather have that on my dust jacket.

It seems to me that our greed, as a nation, a culture, is more than curiousity, a puzzle to solve.  It is a pathology.  One that twists and cripples its victims.  It is a developmental pathology; we are shaped and hammered into greedier and greedier people.  The book I assigned my students in Adolescence last semester (Cold New World, by Richard Finnegan) baldly names consumerism our national religion.  The mall is our temple.  Once you begin analyzing our culture that way, it is hard to see it any way else.  I mean, what is the one unforgivable sin in our country?  To be poor. 

From a super wonderful children’s book to a rant about the state of the country!  This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands : )