Thursday, January 28, 2010

Readings — Prince of Stories

Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman
by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen R. Bissette

A kind of bibliographical commentary on Gaiman and his work to date (actually, to the date of the book’s publication), this volume is not what you’d call seriously critical. What it is, though, is comprehensive. Gaiman’s written a lot of fiction over the years, in a lot of different places. I’m genuinely impressed by how much of it the book’s authors were able to dig up.

The book also scores points for clarity. Its discussion of the incredibly convoluted copyright situation surrounding the Marvelman character is excellent. And the interviews that conclude the book, with Gaiman and with Gaiman’s assistant, are fine.

It’s just a bit cloying, at times, and a bit reluctant to really look critically at Gaiman's work. I would have liked to see more clarity about Gaiman’s connection to the authors; he’s a friend and former collaborator with at least one of them. And, friend or no, when you see a statement like “It is our contention that Neil Gaiman is one of the premier fantasists writing today,” you’re already starting to list off other writers in your head to figure out if that’s true; to follow with “perhaps even the premier fantasist” is almost asking for trouble. I mean, I like Gaiman’s work a lot, at least the best of it, but the next sentence after that is ranking him with Tolkien and Borges, and the odd-couple pairing alone makes you wonder what kind of criteria the authors are using.

Still, issues of critical practice aside, the comprehensiveness of the book makes it a valuable resource for anybody interested in Gaiman; and, as noted, the Marvelman section is useful for comics scholars trying to work out that thorny history (which has already moved on since the book’s publication). Overall, valuable, within its limits.

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