The Graveyard Book Is Coming to the Silver Screen

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about Neil Gaiman’s books being adapted into movies. On the one hand, I always get excited by the news; Gaiman is one of the my favorite authors, and his literary brand of fantasy, with its pitch-perfect blend of humor, suspense, horror, and mythology, seems perfect for the big screen. But on the other hand, I’ve been underwhelmed by the adaptations that I’ve seen to date, and in some cases (e.g., Stardust), I’ve been profoundly disappointed.

And so, I approach the news that Gaiman’s latest — the Newbery Medal recipient The Graveyard Book — is being made into a film directed by Neil Jordan. I’m somewhat comforted at the choice of Jordan for director, as he’s worked with fantasy before (e.g., The Company of Wolves). But even so, given the history of Gaiman adaptations, I’m still worried, and especially so with The Graveyard Book, which is one of Gaiman’s lightest and sweetest works.

The book follows the life of Nobody Owens, who, as a very young child, survives his family’s assassination and is adopted by the ghosts living in a graveyard near his home. Told episodically, each chapter follows “Bod” as he grows up to be a young man under the watchful eye of his ghostly guardians and tries to find his place in the world of the living despite living amongst the dead. In other words, the book is basically Gaiman doing what he does best: taking traditional fantasy elements (ghosts, witches, goblins, etc.) and placing them in a “real world” context, with a pinch of secret societies, ancient evils, and mystical devices thrown in for good measure.

Like Stardust, it’s fairly light reading — you can easily make it through the entire book in a single day. But there are parts of it that continue to stick with you long after the final page has been turned, such as the true nature and allegiance of Silas, Bod’s enigmatic guardian; the scenes of the Grey Lady leading the living and the dead in a stately dance; or the city of the ghouls that Bod foolishly visits in a fit of childish rage. And like Stardust, I don’t necessarily think it’s one of Gaiman’s “deepest” works, but it is one that I find myself returning to, and thinking about, more often than the others.

All of which is to say that I hope it fares better than Stardust, and that we’ll finally be able to enjoy a truly decent Gaiman movie.

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