The Graveyard Book is back on track, I think, and the thorny and evil thicket that was Chapter Six has been traversed and, I am told, does not sound like I was making it up as I went along, but sounds as if I knew what it was about the whole time. This makes me happy, because it was miserable writing it.
Chapter Seven is being written right now, I'm enjoying writing it and I do sort of know where it's going (I have for years) but it seems to be willing to surprise me anyway. A dead poet that I wasn't expecting just showed up, named Nehemiah Trot, who has "Swans Sing Before They Die" on his tombstone, and, I hope, will never know why.
(It won't be explained in the text, so it's from a quote I'd heard attributed to Pope, but is actually from Coleridge, alluding to the belief that swans sing most loudly and beautifully just before they die, which goes,
Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die before they sing.
And leads me to believe that Nehemiah Trot was not considered much of a poet by the people who buried him.)
I am, as I said, really enjoying it.
Having said that, there are a bunch of introductions to things I agreed to write with end of January deadlines (as I was certain that I'd be done the The Graveyard Book by then) that are a bit of a distraction.
The Writer's Strike continues. I was delighted that the Weinstein Company has just made a deal with the WGA, agreeing to all the terms, as that means I can now go back to work on the Neverwhere movie. (A short history -- I wrote about eight drafts of Neverwhere-the-movie between 1997 and 2000, and then retired. Other people came in and wrote scripts, some of which were hated and some of which weren't, but it died. Last year my agents sent someone who asked about it the version of the script they had, which was the last draft script I did in 2000, and people read it, got excited and suddenly it came back to life, with the Hensons producing and doing it with the Weinstein Company. It needs to find a director, but at least I can work on it now.)
One very frequently asked question here is Can I Recommend a Book For A Young Reader? And the answer really is, no, I can't, not without knowing the Young Reader in question. Different people like different books, and age isn't much of a guide to that. But what I can now do is point anyone at this rather wonderful Daily Telegraph list of 100 books every child should read, broken into three sections (young, middle and older readers). It's a terrific list, and I say that as someone who's read to myself, or read aloud, many of the books they suggest, and not just because they've got Coraline on there.
There's an article on Stephin Merritt in the New York Times.
People have asked if I want to get one of the new lightweight Macbook Airs. And I shall, I expect, but I'll wait for them to have been around for a generation before I do. (It always seems the wisest course of action not to nip out and buy Mac stuff when they first release it. The travails of Holly's first generation MacBook is the most recent example in my family of ignoring that rule.)
Also, I'd like it to be a bit lighter still. I wish my new Panasonic W7 was lighter, and it's about 8 ounces less than the new Macs (edited to add: and it comes with a DVD drive and a hard drive that's double the size of the current Mac air. On the down side it came with Vista, which is, so far, like Windows XP only slower).
Neil, on 27 December, you said, There would be a lot more White German Shepherds around if the Nazis hadn't decided they were racially inferior and needed to be cleansed from the gene pool. Of course, the same could be said of my family. Howcome you don't talk about that side of your family?
Normally because it's not something I think about, nor something I'm comfortable with, and it rarely works its way into conversation.
I remember the first time I really became aware of what happened to my family in World War Two. It was when, aged about 11, I had to do a family tree as a school project. This was only twenty five years after the end of the war -- not a long time, not really, although to me it was an age, and WW2 was ancient history. I discovered as I drew the family tree and talked to relatives that, for the most part, my family, in Poland and Germany and all over Eastern Europe, went into concentration camps and didn't come out. On my paternal grandfather's side alone, a huge extended family was pretty much reduced to my great-grandfather and his children, who had come to England, and three sisters from Radomsko in Poland, who survived by fortune and their wits.
One of those sisters was my cousin, the remarkable Dr Helen Fagin, [she was my grandfather's first cousin -- my great-grandfather was her uncle], and has just been honoured by New College of Florida in Sarasota for her work in Holocaust Education.
Like Fagin's writings and teachings, the 1,000-volume collection emphasizes what she calls "the moral lessons" of the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews.
"While it is important to learn about the Holocaust," she says, "it is even more important that we learn from the Holocaust."
The most chilling of those lessons, to her, is that extermination, civilization's ultimate betrayal of its own humanity, was the work of highly civilized people.And she's right. The worst part, for me as I said in American Gods, is that some, perhaps many of the people who killed my family and six million others had, I have no doubt, convinced themselves that they were good people doing the right thing.
"These were educated, erudite individuals, thinkers, who came to the conclusion that the final solution was perfectly plausible.
"And then they were able to enlist the help of chemists to devise an efficient gas for extermination, and architects to design an efficient death house, and industrialists to create the machinery of annihilation."
The lesson of the Holocaust is not that human beings are "somehow capable of resigning from their human obligations to one another," she says, but that "they do so out of conscious moral choice."
Labels: books for young readers, computers and gadgets and things, Helen Fagin, lightweight computers, Neverwhere movie, quotes you always thought were by somebody else, Stephin Merritt, The Graveyard Book, writers' strike