Book Review: The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman / Author: Anthony S. Burdge, Jessica Burke, Kristine Larsen / Publisher: Kitsune Books / Release Date: Out Now
Over the last twenty years, Neil Gaiman has created a prolific and diverse oeuvre that encompasses graphic novels, prose fiction, children's books, film and TV – and for some of us, he's a fashion icon too. This volume of essays by academics and erudite fans embraces the whole spectrum of his work, exploring the distinctive universe that lies beneath the diversity.
As the title implies, the emphasis is on Gaiman the mythmaker, the creator of an eclectic pantheon. A recurring theme is his particular gift for revivifying ancient deities and figures from folklore, whether in the Sandman books or, most explicitly, in American Gods. In a similar way, his writing elaborates upon, or replies to, fictions of previous eras. An essay on Beowulf shows how he thrives on the ambiguities of the old Norse saga, while another considers the relationship between The Graveyard Book and the Narnia stories. We also see Gaiman as a “producer-fan,” bringing his own insights to long-standing franchises such as Babylon 5, Batman and Doctor Who.
The manner of these pieces is bracingly intelligent and, given their academic bias, thankfully light on jargon. For some, perhaps most, fantasy writers such a level of scrutiny might seem like overkill. But not for Gaiman. You come away from these essays with a new respect for the breadth of Gaiman's scholarship, and an appreciation for the range of esoteric allusions woven into his darkly glittering fables.