ADVENTURES IN THE DREAM TRADE
by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Neil Gaimanís Adventures in the Dream Trade is an interesting book in that it is comprised of numerous introductions to other works, some poetry, songs, and the contents of an eight-month long weblog Gaiman maintained while touring in support of his novel American Gods.The introductions are highly successful, even, or perhaps especially, without the work they are introducing. The purpose of an introduction is the whet a readerís appetite for the work that follows it. Gaimanís introductions generally do this. Unfortunately, appetite is all the reader gets since the books Gaiman is describing are not, of course included.
Gaiman includes several poems in the book. These vary in their success, although Gaiman notes that none of the presented poems are his serious poetry. Perhaps the most successful of the five poems is his "How to Write Longfellow's 'Hiawatha'." This poem not only pastiches Longfellow's opus, but also parodies the very act of using earlier works of literature and art as the basis for later works, something Gaiman does, to excellent affect, frequently.
The Flash Girls are a rock duo comprised on Gaiman's assistant Lorraine Garland and writer Emma Bull. Gaiman not only wrote the liner notes for their first album, "The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones," but also provided lyrics for some of their songs. The liner notes and lyrics are provided in this section, and while the former stands up well, as Gaiman himself points out, the lyrics work better if you can hear them, although only "Postmortem on our Love" appears on the aforementioned album.
The largest portion of the collection is taken up by a web log Gaiman maintained while touring in support of his novel American Gods in 2001. The blog discusses not only the nitty gritty of a book tour, which is clearly a lot less glamorous than Hollywood depicts tours, but on the day-to-day minutiae of the writing life. Gaiman's style and chattiness, however make the blog well worth reading. Of course, one of the most interesting things about the blog is that it includes September 11, 2001 and the days immediately after in its coverage. At the time of the attacks, Gaiman was talking to his editor at Vertigo. Seven minutes later, he is discussing the phone lines to New York being dead. Over the next several entries, the events of 9/11 impinge on the blog more tangentially that might be expected given how focused people were at the time, although Gaiman does mention one reader who blamed the attacks on American Gods.
The book ends with five pieces of fiction. These stories are all short-shorts, enough to create a mood, but not long enough to really offer a satisfying story. Because of this, these pieces are a strange selection to end the collection with. They leave the reader with the desire for more, and a feeling that the book isn't quite finished. Adventures in the Dream Trade might have been better served by putting these stories before Gaiman's blog, which does offer a sense of conclusion.
Adventures in the Dream Trade is a collection for the Gaiman completist. The ephemera it includes has an incomplete feel to it, partly because of the length of some of the pieces and partly because the introductions, which form the largest portion of the book after the blog, are specifically designed to lead into other, longer, work, which is, of necessity, not included in Adventures in the Dream Trade. The book however, is interesting for what it is, but probably only really interesting for those who want to ensure they collect all of Gaiman's work.
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