The Sandman: Book of Dreamsby Neil Gaiman
There is a dark king who rules our dreams from a place of shadows and fantastic things. He is Morpheus, the lord of story. Older than humankind itself, he inhabits along with Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium, his Endless sisters and brothers the realm of human consciousness. His powers are myth and nightmare
There is a dark king who rules our dreams from a place of shadows and fantastic things. He is Morpheus, the lord of story. Older than humankind itself, he inhabits along with Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium, his Endless sisters and brothers the realm of human consciousness. His powers are myth and nightmare inspirations, pleasures, and punishments manifested beneath the blanketing mist of sleep.
Surrender to him now.
A stunning collection of visions, wonders, horrors, hallucinations, and revelations from Clive Barker, Barbara Hambly, Tad Williams, Gene Wolfe, Nancy A. Collins, and sixteen other incomparable dreamers inspired by the groundbreaking, bestselling graphic novel phenomenon by Neil Gaiman.
Long-lived comics readers will remember fondly the original "Sandman" from the 1930s and '40s, with his fedora, googly-eyed gas mask and gas gun; Frank McConnell discusses this precursor in his preface while hauling in Joyce, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Jung, and Wallace Stevens to dress up Gaiman's story-parentage. Inventing his own lore for the character, Gaiman (1990's hilariously naughty Good Omens, with Terry Pratchett) wrote 75 installments of The Sandman before closing shop. Awash with watercolors and supersaturated with acid, The Sandman stories are stories about storytelling, celebrations of the outré imagination. The central character of Gaiman's work evolved into a figure variously known as Dream, or Morpheus, or the Shaper, or the Lord of Dreams and Prince of Stories, and his surreal family is called the Endless, composed of seven siblings named Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. Drawing on Gaiman's inkwell are Clive Barker (frontispiece but no story), Gene Wolfe and Nancy A. Collins, and a number of lesser lights, all in top form. George Alec Effinger invents a long tale inspired by Winsor McCay's classic comic strip "Little Nemo" ("Seven Nights in Slumberland"), while Colin Greenland ("Masquerade and High Water"), Mark Kreighbaum ("The Gate of Gold"), Susanna Clarke ("Stopt-Clock Yard"), and Karen Haber (in the outstanding "A Bone Dry Place," about a suicide crisis center) mainline directly from the ranks of the Endless. Rosettes to all, but especially to John M. Ford's "Chain Home, Low," which ties an onslaught of sleeping sickness to the fate of WW II fighter pilots, and to Will Shetterly's "Splatter," about a fan-convention of serial killers who lead their favorite novelist (famous for his depictions of psychopathic murderers) into the real world of serial-killing.
Fancy unleashed on rags of moonlight.
Read an Excerpt
How do gods die? And when they do, what becomes of them then?
You might as well ask, how do gods get born? All three questions are, really, the same question. And they all have a common assumption: that humankind can no more live without gods than you can kill yourself by holding your breath.
(Of course, you just may be the kind of arrant rationalist who huffs that modern man has finally freed himself from ancient enslavement to superstition, fantasy, and awe. If so, return this book immediately to its place of purchase for a refund; and, by the by, don't bother trying to read Shakespeare, Homer, Faulkner, or, for that matter, Dr. Seuss.)
We need gods -- Thor or Zeus or Krishna or Jesus or, well, God -- not so much to worship or sacrifice to, but because they satisfy our need -- distinctive from that of all the other animals -- to imagine a meaning, a sense to our lives, to satisfy our hunger to believe that the muck and chaos of daily existence does, after all, tend somewhere. It's the origin of religion, and also of storytelling-- or aren't they both the same thing? AsVoltaire said of God: if he did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent him.
Listen to an expert on the matter.
"There are only two worlds -- your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worldslike this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Doyou understand?"
The speaker is Titania, the beautiful and dangerous Queen of Faerie, in Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Books of Magic, and I don't know a better summary explanation -- from Plato to Sir Philip Sidney toNorthrop Frye-of why we need, read, and write stories. Of why we, as a species, are godmakers. And spoken by a goddess in a story.
Books of Magic was written while Gaiman was also writing his masterpiece -- so far his masterpiece, for God or gods know what he'll do next -- The Sandman. It is a comic book that changes your mind about what comics are and what they can do. It is a serial novel -- like those of Dickens and Thackeray -- that, by any honest reckoning, is as stunning a piece of storytelling as any "mainstream" (read: academically respectable) fiction produced in the last decade. It is a true invention of an authentic, and richly satisfying, mythology for postmodern, postmythological man: a new way of making gods. And it is the brilliant inspiration for the brilliant stories in this book.
Like most extraordinary things The Sandman had unextraordinary beginnings (remember that Shakespeare, as far as we can tell, just set out to run a theater, make some cash, and move back to his hick hometown). In 1987, Gaiman was approached by Karen Berger of DC Comics to revive one of the characters from DC's WWII "golden age." After some haggling, they decided on "The Sandman." Now the original Sandman, in the late thirties and forties, was a kind of Batman Lite. Millionaire Wesley Dodds, at night, would put on gas mask, fedora, and cape, hunt down bad guys, and zap them with his gas gun, leaving them to sleep until the cops picked them up the next morning -- hardly the stuff of legend.
So what Gaiman did was jettison virtually everything except the title. The Sandman -- childhood's fairy who comes to put you to sleep, the bringer of dreams, the Lord of Dreams, the Prince of Stories --indisputably the stuff of legend.
Between 1988 and 1996, in seventy-five monthly issues, Gaiman crafted an intricate, funny, and profound tale about tales, a story about why there are stories. Dream -- or Morpheus, or the Shaper -- gaunt, pale, and clad in black, is the central figure. He is not a god; he is older than all gods, and is their cause. He is the human capacity to imagine meaning, to tell stories: an anthropomorphic projection of our thirst for mythology. And as such, he is both greater and less than the humans whose dreams he shapes, but whose thirst, after all, shapes him. As Titania would say, he does not exist; and thus he is all that matters. Do you understand?
Grand enough, you would think, to conceive a narrative whose central character is narrative. Among the few other writers who have dared that much is Joyce, whose Finnegans Wake is essentially one immense dream encompassing all the myths of the race ("wake" --"dream": get it?). And, though Gaiman would probably be too modest to invite the comparison, I am convinced that Joyce was much on his mind during the whole process of composition. The first words of the first issue of The Sandman are "Wake up"; the last words of the last major story arc of The Sandman are "Wake up" -- the title of the last story arc being, naturally, "The Wake."
(All of Gaiman's story titles, by the way, are versions of classic stories, from Aeschylus to Ibsen andbeyond. A Brit, raised on British crosswords, he can't resist playing hide-and-seek with the reader -- rather like Joyce.) Grand enough, that. But having invented Dream, the personified human urge to make meaning, he went on to invent Dream's family, and that invention is absolutely original and, to paraphrase what Prince Hal says of Falstaff, witty in itself and the cause of wit in other men.
The family is called the Endless, seven siblings, in order of age -- "birth," we'll see, is not an appropriate term --Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (whose name used to be Delight). They are the Endless because they are states of human consciousness itself, and cannot cease to exist until thought itself ceases to exist; they were not "born" because, like consciousness, nothing can be imagined before them: the Upanishads, earliest and most subtle of theologies, have a deal to say on this matter.
To be conscious at all is to be conscious of time, and of time's arrow: of destiny. And to know that is toknow that time must have a stop: to imagine death. Faced with the certainty of death, we dream, imagine paradises where it might not be so: "Death is the mother of beauty," wrote Wallace Stevens. And all dreams, all myths, all the structures we throw up between ourselves and chaos, just because they are built things, must inevitably be destroyed.
And we turn, desperate in our loss, to the perishable but delicious joy of the moment: we desire. All desire is, of course, the hope for a fulfillment impossible in the very nature of things, a boundless delight; so to desire is always already to despair, to realize that the wished-for delight is only, after all, the delirium of our mortal self-delusion that the world is large enough to fit the mind. And so we return to new stories -- to dreams. The Sandman: Book of Dreams. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Date of Birth:
- November 10, 1960
- Place of Birth:
- Portchester, England
- Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
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