(These two were among our lost posts, back in the dark days of “the database malfunction of September, 2011.” I’ve done my best to recreate them as they originally appeared)
Sometimes I second guess my past self in matters concerning love. “That guy never really meant that much to me, did he? I was just young. It couldn’t have been real magic between us,” I’ll think. Or, “I bet The X-Files wasn’t THAT great. It must have been exciting because it was new and fit so perfectly with the 90s. I was just young.”
I’ve never doubted Brief Lives.
So, lets get right to it. This will be a tough one to discuss without spoilers for the remaining issues in the series, so please watch out for the spoiler alerts.
Maybe this collection is my favorite because of the interplay between Dream and Delirium. She is his perfect foil – she says whatever she is thinking, she ignores all rules of the road and otherwise unless she feels like obeying, she is
charming and disarming. All this up against Dream’s order, regulations, aloofness and desire to just move things along.
Yet, here after he suffers yet another broken heart (?) after yet another failed relationship, Delirium entertains him, takes his mind off the rain, and ultimately comforts him when he needs her. He likes her. She loves that he likes her.
These two are so funny together. Add in Matthew and I giggle my way through all the sections that don’t make me cry.
Maybe I love it because it’s so damn clever with the universe and the story and the characters within. The fact that it is in pursuit of Destruction that Dream changes enough to finally face his fear, put aside his pride, and help Orpheus die – that’s good stuff. Clever considering Destruction’s role in the universe. Not to end, but to allow for new beginnings by getting rid of what doesn’t work anymore. Something in Dream was destroyed and then created here, wasn’t it? That works on a lot of levels. I also love the ways in which Destruction creates poetry, paintings and meals. He does it badly, if Barnabus is to be believed, but he does it a lot. You get the idea that if Neil hadn’t decided on the D theme, Destruction could just as easily been called Creation or Change.
Despair appearing as Dream and Delirium talk outside the temple, where those who have taken care of Orpheus for years and are surely about to add their despair to Dream’s – that’s good too. You don’t think about it much at first, but when you do you realize that in this novel every member of the Endless is there when it makes sense for them to be there. It’s pretty bloody brilliant.
Those moments are through the entire novel and I hope you’ll discuss your favorites. I am sure even on my fourth or fifth reading (I’ve lost count) I must have missed some.
But, in the end, I think Brief Lives is my favorite because it feels like this one is for us – for people. For mortals. It’s a story about relationships between humans and our gods, our ideas, and the Endless attributes of our universe. It is also full of moments that illustrate how we care for each other, how we depend on each other and how, as I remember well from a promo for Six Feet Under some years back: everyone, everywhere ends. We get reminders in Brief Lives of just how wrong Desire was back in The Doll’s House to think that we are the playthings of The Endless or the gods, and perhaps a reminder too that Dream wasn’t quite right to think they are under our power either. It’s more complicated than that.
Johanna Constantine, Andros and his family – these people care for Orpheus at the request of his father. They put themselves in harm’s way to keep him safe, keep him comfortable. In exchange, there is the comfort of a mission, a purpose, and occasionally a song that makes all pain go away.
Bast holds on to the few prayers she still gets, gives comfort where she can to her children, grows old and tired.
Ishtar makes men feel special and powerful as her own power and importance in the universe seems to have waned, but in the end she takes her final sacrifices with her to a spectacular end.
Destruction walks away from his realm, yet things still fall apart and in the rubble, something new is born.
Sometimes they take care of us, sometimes we take care of them, sometimes we ignore each other and certain repercussions come from that. Sometimes, we hurt each other on purpose. But we share one thing: Death. Sooner or later, we all have to realize as Bernie Capax does – all we get is a lifetime. No more. No less.
I also can’t help but be tickled by Dream and the way he handles romance. When it is revealed that Morpheus agreed to Delirium’s journey in the hopes of running into the as of yet unnamed object of his latest romance, I giggle. I’ve done that. You’ve done that. Makes sense that the entity representing our dreams, our fears, and the ideas that get stuck in our head would do that too. Another little reminder: they are not so unlike us. We should have compassion.
Of course, the biggest reminder of this comes when Dream grants Orpheus his boon. I don’t know why, but when Orpheus says, “Father. I wish things could have been otherwise,” I lose it. Again – I’ve been there. You’ve been there. Sometimes it’s all there is to say at the end of a story and that is very, very sad.
OK, spoilers time. If you haven’t finished The Kindly Ones and The Wake, get ye out of here.
I have long since believed that the driving theme of Dream’s arc is Change. Eventually, he changes too much to stay in his current form. This novel has change all over it – Delirium is afraid of it when she finds the word for it, Dream denies time and again that he has done it, yet everyone he encounters in this collection, including and especially Destruction, tell him he has changed in ways substantial and surprising.
Don’t you think he knows this? That he knows what it means? By the end of Brief Lives, I believe he not only knows his fate, but is ready for it. He’s already been preparing Daniel, hasn’t he? Daniel isn’t immortal. This can’t be a “some day” thing – this is a “someday soon” thing.
I always wonder about this process of death and replacement. If an Endless ends and is replaced, is it ultimately because the universe changes? Because people and their actions undergo some gradual shift that transforms the nature of despair or dreams just enough that Despair and Dream’s own lives guide them by whatever means to their own end?
How is this different than Delight who did not die and get replaced, but rather changed while staying herself?
How is it different than Destruction walking away?
Other questions I love considering: What does Delirium know the rest of them don’t? What kinds of things are not written in Destiny’s book? Did this all start with Morpheus being imprisoned? It seems as though the fundamental change in him is humility and compassion – did it happen because of his new ability to empathize with the powerless?
So many more questions, so many more things to talk about. Hope to hear from you, friends, in one way or another.
At Worlds’ End we find stories within stories within stories. Huddled together to wait out the reality storm, caused by a massive change in the universe, the end of a world, or perhaps the collision of two realities, storytellers spin tales to pass the time.
Many of the stories are about dreams, of course – the dreams of a city, dreams of sailors and the sea, the American Dream. Some are about being trapped – trapped in dreams, trapped in metal – and the powerful relief of freedom. Two are quite specifically about death. One, surely breaks your heart.
All of them share the theme of the ambiguous nature of reality and the wisdom of never assuming you know exactly how things work.
Some of my favorite moments illustrating this are subtle. For example, it is stated in The Golden Boy that the lowering of the legal voting age to 18 had the “inevitable” consequence of 18 year-olds getting the minimum age requirements on congress and the Presidency lowered as well. Inevitable, of course! Makes perfect sense. Except we are all aware that our America did the first part, but not the second. In Cerements, Peterfax finds himself enjoying his food more when he does not wash his hands after performing a burial by air not because he would expect to, but because the client’s people expect to.
Reality is not reality, reality is perception. Reality *is*, as our innkeeper maintains, fragile. Just like Morpheus’ appearance, reality depends on who is looking.
Every issue in this collection delights me for one reason or another. The Golden Boy and A Tale of Two Cities are probably my favorites. In their own way, they each haunt me a bit. They are fantastical, yet feel *this close* to the truth/reality that I know. Something seems familiar about them, as if I can just barely feel them happening in a universe just around the corner.
And here begin the spoilers.
I envy the mortals in this story and their brush with the magical. My imagination is too good – I can almost imagine everything about this Inn and put myself in the middle of the shared dark and stormy night. Almost.
Certainly enough that when the funeral progression marches by, I am covered with goosebumps and sadness. When Brant says he is changed by what he sees, it reminds me of how often the mortals in Gaiman’s stories have experiences that parallel that of the immortals around them, particularly Dream. It is part of Dream’s change, his shift from Morpheus to Daniel, that the inhabitants of the Inn are watching. So, just as Dream will still be Dream, Brant will still be Brant. But, just as Dream will also be something different, so will Brant.
Probably, when this was all over, Neil Gaiman was both still Neil Gaiman and someone different, as well.
This collection leaves me with more melancholy than any other, I think. The Wake comes close, but The Wake is after it is all over and a sort of closure found. Worlds’ End is the harbinger of all the change yet to come. It’s an amazing collection, but it leaves me feeling a certain sense of dread moving forward.
In just under a week The Kindly Ones will be featured here. Two weeks after that, The Wake and the end of this project…(?) Thanks to all of those who have stuck it out, those who are catching up and those who will join us when ready.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (135)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
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- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love
- Before the Movie: G.I. Joe Retaliation