In the introduction to Stories, the anthology Neil Gaiman edited with Al Sarrantonio, Gaiman notes that he “finds [himself] increasingly frustrated with the boundaries of genre: the idea that categories which existed only to guide people around bookshops now seemed to be dictating the kind of stories that were being written.”
He then talks about the magic of stories, and remarks that he is convinced that the most important question about a story has nothing to do with genre, and often comes from children. A writer knows that his or her story has succeeded when they hear this: “…and then what happened?”
Part of the joy of reading for me is that almost any book can be read on multiple levels. I read for escapism; I read for work; I read for play. I found out not long ago that a close family member was expecting his first child in August. I understand other people buy practical things for this sort of event – diapers, clothes, all the things that single people with no children have no idea about. My immediate thought was, “Books! I can buy more books!”
Among the selections in Stories, Gaiman and Sarrantonio each have one of their own stories. Gaiman’s is “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains.”
In it, a dwarf who is never named approaches the house of Calum MacInnes, and it is quickly established that the dwarf requires MacInnes’s services a guide for reasons he does not care to detail. Know that this is not a review so much as a short commentary. On their journey, the dwarf and MacInnes establish that they have widely divergent views on what the truth is. Because of this, only one of them will go home from this trip to the Misty Isle.
These are facts. You can read the story on a more analytical level, and no doubt find more. You can read it for entertainment, and possibly find less. The joy of reading, as I think Gaiman and Sarrantonio capture in their anthology, is whatever you read in their stories – you will find that desire to know what comes next: “and then what happened?”
On Wednesday, May 25, The Guardian (UK) ran the following story on prisoners and gaming in China.
The scary thing is that I’ve read this novel. It’s called For the Win, and it’s by Cory Doctorow. I’ll review it here next week.