Whaaaaaaaaat is going on here? After a stunning round of stories last week, I am feeling utterly lost this week. I mean, I listened to all of these stories at least twice and read them once, and I still don’t get 75 percent of them. That’s not good!
On the plus side, they’re still read by Neil Gaiman and he can still read me the phone book if he wants.
“The Hidden Chamber”
According to the introduction, this is supposed to be a Bluebeard story. And Bluebeard is a… pirate? Let me go check Wikipedia. That is not a pirate. I am totally thinking of Blackbeard, aren’t I? Things are starting to make so much more sense. Let me read this entry a bit more. … Okay, I’m back, and this is actually pretty okay. Let me change my previous statement to 50 percent. Soooooo this is a sort of poem thing (which doesn’t quite come across in the audio because it’s free verse) about this fella Bluebeard who, as I just learned, is traditionally a guy what likes to kill his wives. But in Gaiman’s version, he’s all, no, no, don’t worry about the ghosts, and I totally don’t have one room in my house you’re not allowed into I don’t know what you’re talking about, and also I’m so misunderstood. He’s reformed, you see, but not in the way you might think, and the poem takes a turn toward the creeptastic at the end. I may need to take out a preemptive restraining order on anyone with a blue beard.
“Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire”
Well, okay, maybe 25 percent, because I think I get this story, I just don’t like it. It opens with the a “chapter” that goes, “Somewhere in the night, someone was writing.” Excellent start! Then it moves over to what is being written, which also doesn’t quite come across in the audio and it took me a second listen to figure out exactly how that worked. And what is being written is a sort of send-up of every horror/ghost/creepy story ever written, with an allusion to The Turn of the Screw and probably many other things that I can’t quite pin down. And it’s predictably bad, and then we go back to the writer, and the writer is all “I am failing at writing this slice-of-life Great American Novel where “American” equals “weird alternate universe where life is creepy all the time and those nice young men etc.” And so at first I am like, “Oh I see how this is a satire of creepy stories,” but then I am like, “Oh I see what you did there and I am not quite in.” Because the author is complaining about how his writing is just a send-up of the “classics” and not a view into daily tedium or whatever, except that Gaiman also writes the Auteur’s actual life as a send-up of the “classics” and so I think he’s doing a great job. And then, when the Auteur (spoiler!) decides to write “fantasy” instead, he’s just sending up a different genre so I don’t think he has improved anything. Okay, maybe 37.5 percent?
“The Flints of Memory Lane”
I get this one! And I kind of like it! But I can’t write as much about it because it’s so short! Anyway, this is just a quick telling of an anecdote from Gaiman’s life where he may or may not have seen a real live ghost faffing about in front of his family’s house. This of course doesn’t do justice to Gaiman’s writing, which conveys the creepiness of seeing a strange woman hanging around under a sodium lamplight, all oddly colored and also silent and also capable of disappearing while your back is turned. I’ve never had quite such a vivid experience, but I’m sure it would scare the pants off of me.
I absolutely do not get this story and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. From what I have gathered, this is a story wherein Our Narrator is swapping ghost stories with a group of friends. Check. Then he tells one wherein he meets a group of boys and the boys dare Our Narrator to knock on a playhouse door and then Our Narrator dares them to go into the playhouse, whose door opens and closes by itself, and the boys are never seen again and that’s creepy. And then after the story is told, it turns out that one of the listeners is one of the story’s boys and he’s all, “our dad was kind of a weirdo and my one brother killed himself and I just got out of the loony bin.” And I just… I don’t get it. I don’t understand how this latter bit goes with the narrator’s story, and I don’t understand how all these tangents the narrator goes on have anything to do with anything and… yeah. I got nothing. Help?
I am so not excited for reading the next four stories, because I fear they will be as baffling as most of these, but I have a feeling that as soon as I start the next one I’ll be hooked again. What do you guys think?