Friday, December 09, 2016

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Really smart writers are the ones who can take worn out metaphors, the kind that have become cliches through overuse, and make them vital again. And really smart artists similarly transform the stories they tell, making words into pictures that tell more than the original words ever could.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties was originally a short story -- by Neil Gaiman, obviously. Two young men: one boisterous and outgoing, the other quiet and unsure (our narrator) are in London, in the author's own youth, looking for a party where they think there will be girls. They really want there to be girls at the party -- maybe one specific one, but they're not in a position to be that picky yet -- but our narrator is also afraid, or worried.

The trouble with girls at that age -- it may be the trouble with boys as well, but that was never the way I was focusing my attention, so I have no expertise there -- is that they seem really strange and different, as if they've suddenly transformed.

As if they were from a different planet entirely.

Gaiman turned that idea, that metaphor, into a great short story, entirely dependent on that one idea and the voice of the narrator -- who, like a lot of Gaiman narrators from Violent Cases to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is not exactly Neil Gaiman. He looks a bit like Gaiman, he acts a bit like Gaiman, he's doing many of the same things Gaiman did at the same age...and, like here, if he has a name (Enn), it doesn't seem like his real name. All stories are autobiographical; all stories are lies.

Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba -- call them the Brazilian wonder twins, because all three of those words are true -- took that story and adapted it into sixty-two pages of comics, now available as a book. It's the short story in a different form: more visual, perhaps, and slightly more obvious because of that. But it's not simplified or changed, just translated into a different medium.

It doesn't replace the story -- nothing replaces a story, not a movie or the fact that it comes true or the fact that it can now never come true -- but it's a beautiful, wonderful version of that story, with pictures as good as Gaiman's original words. Maybe read the story first, though. Some sneaky things need to come into your head as words first.

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