Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined assigned viewing AND reading linked below. Students are to post ONE comment addressing BOTH the viewing and the fictional excerpt. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Neil Gaiman at the 2008 National Book Festival. Click heading to watch the video.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet." Click heading to read the rest of the first chapter.


  1. In this excerpt by Neil Gaiman, a man named Jack kills a man and a woman, and intends to kill a toddler, however the toddler has escaped from his crib and his house, and is presumably headed towards a graveyard, where he will be raised by ghosts. I liked the detail about Jack's shoes being shined so much that you could see the moon reflected in them. Despite this, I still could not really picture him because we did not get that much description of him. Or maybe just that description of clothing alone was not enough. I wanted to know why he was killing those people. Language-wise, the author is very neutral in his choice of words and sentences. Nothing really stuck out to me--shined--except for the sentence about his shoes (no pun...). JF.

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  3. First, let me start this response by saying how much I enjoyed both the video as well as the first chapter of The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman is an extremely humble writer and I loved the advice that he gave his audience when he admitted to them that writing The Graveyard Book took him years because he did not think he was a good enough writer to write on the topic he had chosen. He would come back it every few years or so and write a few more pages. He even claimed that those few pages he did write always turned out to be stupid or "rubbish". That makes me feel more confident as a writer, I haven't written creatively since I was about 14 years old and I do not consider myself to be a writer. Thus, sometimes the task can feel daunting. Some of the advice he gave also resonates with what Alex says in class- that you aren't a writer unless one or more person reads your work. Neil Gaiman didn't really begin writing The Graveyard Book until he had an audience and in turn, someone who cared about the book-- his daughter. It shows me how important having an audience can be. In Chapter 1 of the novel, Neil Gaiman did a great job on getting our attention by describing a single object-- the knife. I also loved how he gave the antagonist, Jack, a heightened sense of smell. It almost dehumanized him and emphasized the blood thirsty killer that he was. I really enjoyed the spookiness of this first chapter and feel compelled to go buy this book.

  4. My reaction to this viewing is more from the perspective of a writer I feel that similarly to Neil Gaiman I often have the problem of beginning a piece and not knowing where to continue with it or similarly I feel like what I have written is simply crap or”rubbish” as he himself says. However, what stood out to me even more was what he said about reading what he had once wrote to his daughter and his immediate response was “what happens next?” He mentions that is when he knew he had something good. As for myself, much like many others, we fear reading our work to others but often times that is the most critical aspect of writing, in order to obtain the most effective critique of it, as mentioned in class. As for my reaction to the first chapter of “The Graveyard” what stood out the most to me was the way that he combined two things that were completely opposite from each other to evoke emotion from the reader but somehow effectively created an amalgamation of both. For instance, he begins with a thorough description of the knife, essentially bringing this object to life so it seems, and then he begins to describe the railings of the crib, as well as the toddler and lastly the fuzzy toys. Overall these objects are all on opposite ends of the spectrum but yet they work together to essentially create a sense of fear and suspense, which leaves readers wanting to decipher the story behind this.
    - Julissa Peralta

  5. The last book I read fully by Neil Gaiman was the Graveyard book. I skimmed American Gods, but my mother wouldn’t lend me her copy because it was “too adult for me” so I just snuck peeks into it and didn’t delve further in. Not because I agreed with her, or was an obedient kid, but because it was the exact sort of story I hate. It still had gorgeous descriptors and vivid imagery that I cherished, but I appreciated books like The Graveyard Book and Coraline much more than it. They are simpler structurally, and are written like adventures and not tribulations. It was nice to hear Mr. Gaiman discuss the inspiration of his book and his lengthy process of writing it, reminding me of my own process of starting something and them putting it off for lack of confidence in writing skills. I had already read a shorter version of his inspiration inside the novel itself; it lies in the very last few pages, in what are essentially the vacat pages at the very end, the official Acknowledgements. It helped, while hearing the speech, that Mr. Gaiman could read his own work. I always fear that I’m reading too poorly, purely because I am more used to hearing actors and actresses read word aloud than myself. Having a theater-licensed playwright and amateur novelist as a friend can really spark some insecurities. The author, or, perhaps, any author, is probably more equipped to read aloud their own work than a stranger purely because they had intentions in the work from the start. I’m leaving my own subject matter, aren’t I

  6. I was aware of Neil Gaiman as an author/artist but never personally read any of his work before reading his excerpt out of The Graveyard Book. Not only is he a very talented writer, but he knows how to piece his words together to flow so well while reading his work to a large audience. This was impressive to me because many people can write a story that is so vivid yet when it comes to using their own word of mouth, they simply fall short. Before watching the video excerpt I read the passage out of his novel. Not a single sentence lacked detail and I was able to visualize the whole scenario. Just reading it had me on the edge of my seat and if more of the story had been included, I would have continued the journey. It was very intense. This made me come to appreciate him speaking about the novel and also reading it the way that he thought it as he was writing this story. The personal background that he gave was also very interesting because his inspiration for the story totally makes complete sense after he explains it. Although it was not as intense as the reading excerpt, it still did not lack any detail. In fact, I closed my eyes while listening and just let my mind visualize the words of Neil Gaiman. When he was done reading his story it was cool that he connected with the audience and told them more about his personal life. Mentioning that for about 2-3 weeks he is in misery and actually contemplates picking up a regular day job where he would have to get up early in the morning and dress with a tie was also a very down to Earth statement. This is probably something that most people with his recognition would refuse to admit.
    -Kyle Tortorelli

  7. The chilling first line’s of Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” truly capture a reader and pique their interest in reading the remainder of the book. Reading that excerpt made me want to go out and buy the book, like his daughter I am sitting here thinking “what happens next?”. I could clearly imagine the knife shining in the night moon as he crept through the house; and felt sick to my stomach as he thought about killing the child. Although it made me sick I still want to read the rest of the book, sometimes things that make you sick can also be truly captivating.

    Personally, the hardest part about writing is the beginning; finding the first lines to capture a readers attention, so that they want to continue reading. I enjoy how Gaiman mentions that he began writing this book in chapter four; when I write papers for school I always write the “meat” of the paper first and then fill in the introduction and conclusion. Hearing him say that made me feel better about myself and my writing style, because even great writers have trouble writing the first lines.

    I also like how he mentioned that sometimes writers do remarkable things without even knowing it. In high school when analyzing the symbolism in books and poetry, I often wondered if the author really had a purpose for the symbol. People may think that Coraline’s button eyes have a deep significant meaning, yet Gaiman states that the idea just came to him one day. I think it shows that an author doesn’t need to try too hard to throw “symbolism” into their work because readers will inevitably find their own symbols.

  8. My response to this reading is that it read like that of a thriller. It was an ok read, but more was needed to get my attention. This is like a Jack the ripper story, with no one knowing he was even in the house thereby giving him the opportunity to kill everyone except the baby who was not where he should have been. In his crib.
    But it does now bring to mind that the baby must have been the smartest one in the house, because he was not to be found, he had managed to climb out of his crib very ingeniously and somehow was in another part of the house. Jack had killed everyone, but was at his wits end trying to figure out where the baby was and most important how he could have gotten out of the crib since the rest of the house was apparently dead at his own hand.
    Jack new the baby was in the house because he smelled the baby smells or so he thought, it was said the smells were a milky smell, like chocolate chip cookies and wet diaper, but the smells led him no, no child to be found. This passage does not say if the child was hiding, but I feel that the baby felt danger and slid away to safety. Smart baby…
    There is nothing else to say about this passage, the video was very hard to hear, and he read from the end of the book so I did not get anything from it.


  9. I'm not a fan of what I call the gruesome, however I must admit Mr. Gaiman sucked me into the story pretty quickly. The idea of a dismembered hand with a knife stabbing a whole family is really sick, but I wanted to keep reading. I was rooting for the toddler and praying he would be quiet and not attract that nut. The author described the fog, the smell of the baby so vividly that I could see the scene. I feel like I can describe what the baby looked like and make assumptions about the color of his hair and eyes.The telling of how he got out of the crib reminded me of my twins who would help each other out and in their crib. Smart kids. Although I don't like scary books or movies I really want to know what happened to this child.
    Reading stories like this written by such a normal, everyday looking man is a little creepy. It makes me believe in that saying about a thin line between sanity and insanity. So is this genre of storytelling indeed creativity or a kind of mental illness?
    I watch and listen to people, and the things that I observe give me ideas to write about. I guess all writers do this. Mr. Gaiman talked about conversations he had with his children that gave him ideas for stories.Then he is able to turn that simple idea into a sophisticated almost perverted piece of work, quite different from the childlike prompt he was given.
    I can identify with him however, when he says he can start a piece and go no where with it for a while and then come back to it months or years later. But then when you come back to it the characters start to tell their own story and make you excited to see what's going to happen next.

  10. I read this book about 7-8 years ago and it was certainly exciting to revisit. There are many subtleties and poetic moments which I surely would not have picked up in my youth. Looking at this book now through from the perspective of a writer, it is interesting to note how Neil Gaiman does not let any detail go unnoticed. He he constantly describing the surroundings and characters to an almost annoying level of specificity. Often Gaiman uses metaphors which I found particularly effective in creating a mental picture.
    I found it interesting how the story began by focusing in on an object, similar to what we have been learning in class. More importantly it completely fascinated me how strong of a foundation could be built just from those opening lines about a knife.This example gave even more credibility to what Alex has been teaching.
    During the video it was curious to watch just how normal of a guy Neil Gaiman is.He is most surely a man with humble beginnings and seems to carry humility with him no matter where he goes. The contrast between the exquisiteness of the story and the exceptional normality of Neil Gaiman’s personality was humoring.

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  12. I found a great contrast between the spoken tonalities used by Neil Gaiman when he was reading his book aloud and the voice that manifested in my mind as I read through the excerpt from the first chapter. As I read through the voice in my head as I read was rather calm in tone, sticking to the facts of the matter. It was this tone that to me gave it a sense of suspense. “There was a hand in the darkness, and it had a knife”, “both the blade and the handle were wet”. Theses matter of fact statements seemed dispassionate and lent themselves to my own internal creation of a calm demeanor for the speaker.
    It had later occurred to me that this difference that’s pretty much only in my head was brought about by the fact the Gaiman was reading from much later in the book. The portion he read from was much later in the book and included dialogue from more than one character. There was an older man who considered himself to be a poet apparently. This character was, I got the impression from Gaiman’s vocalization of him, the comedy relief. How he was plotting vengeance on those who he felt wronged him to occur after his death. The overly jovial nature that Gaiman put into his voice while reading parts from this excerpt later in his book allowed for a surprising contrast mostly because of the comedy relief character. Because I read the excerpt from the first chapter before watching Gaiman do a reading I was expecting a far more calm, possibly even somber tone to be put forth.

  13. This past year, my roommate ranted and raved to me bout Neil Gaiman's work, blowing through The Sandman, The Graveyard Book, and American Gods. I always took it with a grain of salt, never actually dipping my toes into the pool. This excerpt and reading have showed me that the water is fine-- I'm going to have to go ahead and dive in now.
    There is something miraculous about listening to authors speak, both inside and outside of the published word. Of course, as an actor, I am deeply fascinated by the way an author will bring his own characters to life. Take the dead poet, for instance: Gaiman hits Trot's subtle Macbeth reference with just enough for us to know Trot's aware the boy will recognize it not. You don't get that kind of insight reading it in print. His slow, deliberate pace allows for total mental sift between his characters, making the dialogue even richer.
    I am also stunned by his celebrity. His speech demonstrates his self-awareness, like when he discussed The Good Omen, for example. He references the days when he and Pratchett were "just two blokes writing a book together", before the acclaim and success. When he answers his questions, he seems very astute and in tune to the manner in which fans mean their questions.
    I'm excited to get my hands on The Graveyard Book and see what lies within the world, especially after hearing the backstory of its inspiration.

  14. My immediate response was what happens with the next chapter, the rest of the novel? Neil Gaiman does an excellent job with building up suspense. “He would not allow himself to smile until the job was completed.” I thought that that was one of the most sickening lines in this piece. The man Jack silently walked up the stairs, with only the scattered light from the half full moon, that barely illuminated the hand, with the knife, hiding in the shadows. “He could make out the shape of the child in the crib, head and limbs and torso.” Fortunately, he stabbed a stuffed bear in its chest instead. With his impeccable aim, I really thought that he would have killed the toddler.

    My favorite moment was the escape scene from the prison cells of the toddler’s crib. The fact of a toddler seemingly able to deceive death, thus far, was astonishing.

    It left my mind traipsing with questions. Who hired him, or does he simply kill for fun? Is he a super-human? A normal mortal wouldn’t be able to distinguish the scents of rubber and a trail of baby shampoo mixing through the air. It’s almost as if the man Jack was a bloodhound.

    It really works for him, writing the story in third-person since the narrative isn’t stuck on the man Jack or the toddler, it’s giving just enough details, without destroying the ending.

    It really works for him, writing the story in third-person since the narrative isn’t stuck on the man Jack or the toddler, it’s giving enough details.