Fiction Builds Empathy

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

– Neil Gaiman (Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming)

Miscellany: “Teardrop” trailer, “Unbreakable” audio book, Gaiman talks “Ocean” and fantasy, Stiefvater and bagpipes

Lauren Kate’s “Teardrop” will be released on October 22nd! I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Lauren twice already and to see just how passionate she is about the “Fallen” series, so I’m excited to read “Teardrop” and to see her venture into a new world and a new series.

Never, ever cry…Eureka Boudreaux’s mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn’t, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before. But Ander doesn’t know Eureka’s darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth…and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.

Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive on the book trailer HERE.

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Another October release: Kami Garcia’s “Unbreakable” (October 1)! I’m excited for this as well.

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Kami Garcia and her publishers just announced that the audiobook will be narrated by the lovely Candice Accola a.k.a. Caroline from “The Vampire Diaries”! I love her! Yay!

There is a preview of the audiobook on Entertainment Weekly, but I think the media is blocked for users outside the US. You can still try, though! CLICK!

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Book Riot interviewed Neil Gaiman recently. Par for the course with Gaiman, there are so many quotable quotes in the interview, but this is the part that I really loved and the part that made me THINK. Yes, making his readers think—and think deeply—is par for the course with Gaiman, too.

A recurring theme in all your work is that the magical and fantastical lies mere millimeters below the surface of everyday life. After creating these worlds where gods walk among us and fairy lands are a mere crack in the wall away, do you ever get bored with everyday life? For example, do you ever wish Odin was propping up that bar?

What I find fascinating about the real world is that fantasy is one of the few things that allows you to talk about the imaginary. From what I can see, the imaginary is the thing that occupies most people’s lives and allows them to function.

Money is imaginary. It is a concept, an idea. Here’s some pieces of paper and metal. We are claiming they’re scarce when they are not. They represent something.

Scotland is right now arguing if it should be part of the UK or not. National borders are imaginary things. You get up high and look down you cannot see the border. There is none. It’s an imaginary thing that is agreed upon.

Let’s go even further into it. The World Trade Centre getting blown up. If you stand a little bit further back, Islamic-Christian antipathy, Islamic-Jewish antipathy, Catholic-Protestant antipathy, has all the reality of Odin sitting at that counter over there. You take just one step back and it is a bunch of people willing to pervert and destroy, kill and change the world just to say my imaginary friend likes me better than your imaginary friend.

That’s all weird imaginary stuff. So the glory of fantasy is that it allows you to inspect that. It allows you to take one step away from a quotidian reality in which we accept imaginary things as real. Do you realise the amount of blood that has been spilled and is still spilled to this day about people arguing about whether or not a cracker, literally or metaphorically, becomes the body and blood of someone who may or may not have lived, and if he did, died 2000 years ago? And bombs go off. And people lose hands and lives. So, I figure that anyone who wants to tell me that fantasy isn’t dealing with the material of daily life is kinda missing everything that goes on in daily life.

Thank you for stimulating the Little Grey Cells, Sir!

Full interview: In conversation with Neil Gaiman (Book Riot)

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And lastly, Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Dream Thieves”—the sequel to the magical “The Raven Boys”—was officially released yesterday, September 17th. I’ve been reading an ARC for the past 2 weeks. I had reservations about the first book despite liking it, but “The Dream Thieves” just took a hold of me from the first line of the Prologue. I wish I can read faster so I can review it faster!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…
 
 

Goodreads posted this great interview with Maggie in celebration of the release of the book:


 
 
 
 

Scoring the Book: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Read Date: 24 June 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: None.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is, perhaps, one of Gaiman’s most accessible novels. While “American Gods”, “Anansi Boys”, and “Neverwhere” were critically acclaimed, I had a very difficult time reading them. It took me a long time to finish the first two, and I never did finish “Neverwhere” (although I finished watching the BBC mini-series).

I don’t know why that is; I love the premise of all those books, and I love Gaiman’s prose…most of the time. But until now, I’ve never been able to figure out just what it is in those books that I had difficulty with, to be honest.

To my surprise, I breezed through “Ocean”. The first-person POV was very immersive, and that’s exactly what you want when you read a Gaiman novel, although I don’t think it’s healthy for my sanity to be inside his head for long periods of time like this. It can get really weird in there. 😛 But Gaiman has written something deeply personal here, and you can feel it in every word.

Because the book is not marketed for children or young adults, I was surprised by how much time was spent during the narrator’s childhood. But then again, I think this is the kind of story that you will only really appreciate if you have a substantial childhood to look back on yourself.

There are a lot of elements here that are familiar to me from reading Gaiman’s other works, in particular, “Coraline”. (Ursula reminds me so much of “The Other Mother”.) This feels sort of like an aged-up version of that.

I struggle once more to grasp why exactly I couldn’t like this book more than I did, or to rate it more than a 3.5 when almost everyone has been raving about it. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault; I think it might be me, as cliché as that sounds.

[2013.06.25: Edited to add…] Okay, I will attempt to write something that I only just realized about Gaiman’s writing. It has a weird effect on me. When I read most of his books, my brain processes them like a half-remembered dream. Some parts are hazy, some parts are vivid, some parts baffle me, and some parts, I feel, are too deep for me to fathom. And so afterwards, the stories don’t have a solid impact on me or my emotions. By the end of the stories, I am in awe, and…that’s it.

My experience was different with “Good Omens”, “Stardust”, and “Coraline”, though. Those, I had a more solid grasp on. “Mirrormask” felt like a dream all throughout, but then again, if you didn’t feel like it was a dream while you were reading it, you’re probably reading another book…or you’re a real fantasy creature who lives in a world that strange. 😛 [end additions.]

And also, when I read books, I imagine that they have an aura about them that reflects how I feel after I’ve read them. This book’s aura is very grim and gray, except for the part where Lettie Hempstock allowed the narrator (what was his name again? Handsome George?) to immerse himself into the Ocean. That might be the only time I saw a brightness in the book.

Of course, that’s not the book’s fault. Gaiman told the story that he wanted to tell, and he told it well. There are just days when I want a book with a bright aura, and today is such a day.

So don’t let my Trelawney-esque mumbo-jumbo or my brain’s inability to properly process Gaiman dissuade you. This is something that I would recommend to people no matter what my experience with it was.

And now to score the book. Nell (넬), my favorite Korean band of the moment, just released a mini-album called “Escaping Gravity”. (They’re a real band, by the way, and not a singing boy group. Their sound is influenced by Brit rock, so it’s safe to give them a listen if you like that kind of music, or if you’re not fond of popular or mainstream Korean music, a.k.a. K-pop.) The promo single for the album is called “Ocean of Light”, and I think it’s appropriate to score the part of this book that shone like a bright beacon to me. 🙂

I’m in the ocean of light
My dreams are breathing
In the dazzling waves of light
I am being born again
I’m in the ocean of light
My dreams are dancing
In the big waves of light
I am being born again
In the ocean of light

 

Read this book:

  • If you would like to be introduced to the works of Neil Gaiman. It’s more accessible than his other adult novels, except perhaps for “Good Omens”, but that’s a collaboration.
  • If you feel like reminiscing about your childhood, which, hopefully, was more…sunshine-y than the narrator’s was.
  • If you like good fantasy, but you are deathly afraid of epic fantasies.