Monday, April 2, 2018

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

It's stopped raining, which is something, but it's so bitterly cold in my flat that I'm considering getting the hoover out simply because of the warm air (albeit scented with dog hair) that it blows out. My flat really could do with hoovering from a housekeeping point of view too, but somehow that's not much of an incentive.

The cold, indoors and out, has made me even more aware of the growing number of betters and rough sleepers I'm seeing on the streets at the moment. In all the years I've lived in the city I've never known it quite like this, that it's coincided with an unusually cold and long winter makes the situation even more worrying.

It also reminded me that I haven't written about 'Neverwhere' yet. It's a book that I'd sort of meant to read for years but only got round to last month. It's another Gaiman book that has a lot to like about it, but that I didn't love.

The idea of a shadowy alternative London full of people, places, and even times, that have fallen through the cracks of reality, is beguiling. The way Gaiman plays with place names is wonderful, as is the richness of texture and detail he gives his world - and yet it hardly ever really comes to life for me. The one moment when it did was near the end when the hero, Richard, tells his friend about his experiences in London below. Gary replies "I've passed the people who fall through the cracks, Richard: they sleep in shop doorways all down the Strand. They don't go to to a special London. They freeze to death in the winter."

It's an acknowledgment that gives the book more heart and properly roots it in a fairy tale tradition of stories told to make unpleasant truths more palatable, or to serve as warnings. I believe 'Neverwhere' started out as a radio play, I know it was televised years ago (I remember half watching an episode but that it didn't hold my attention enough to get me following it). I really would like to listen to it, and can but hope the BBC will make it available again.

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