Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not against gritty or graphic writing. In fact, I am opposed to censorship in any form, and I think what always needs to be in place instead is some sort of warning, rating, etc. so that parents can do the censoring for their young children, individuals can filter out what they themselves don't want to read, and so on. So, at the end of the day, I guess I lean toward, "Bring on the gritty."
However, my dilemma is as follows:
A fantasy author has to work extra hard to make his or her story believable. I know that seems like an oxymoron, but it's not. If you are creating from scratch a fantastic world with magic and miracles and monsters and strange settings, you need to make sure that the magic has rules, that the miracles are not too many, that the monsters are neither too strong nor too weak, and that those strange settings are just familiar enough that the reader will venture inside them. You must not draw attention to the fact that as an author, you are making all of this up. Yes, an author's ideas are a patchwork of the stories that have influenced them, as well as their life experiences, but in the end, an author is making it all up.
|Photo: "American Gods" by browneagle44 of Deviantart.com|
Did Gaiman manage to piece together a story out of some nightmarish images? Yes, pretty much - I mean, it took about 300 pages to get going. But did he destroy the illusion that he was trying to create of a world populated by forgotten gods and shiny new ones? For me, he did. A reader can only suspend disbelief so long, and when a writer just wallows in gratuitous descriptions of sex and gore, the reader's gaze slowly slides off the story and onto the realization that the author is conjuring these images all on his own. To my mind, conjurers should stay out of mind, and behind the curtain. Everything conjured should be conjured in service of the story. Period.
I know there are masses out there who would disagree with this review, and that's not only okay but good. Discussion is the ultimate goal of The Geek and Inkwell. So bring it on. :) I know that what I've said is basically blasphemy, considering Gaiman's swarms of devoted followers. I am still a fan, too! So I hold out hope for Neverwhere, which is next on the list.