My love for our local library is helping me indulge in a Halloween Gaiman-athon. After American Gods I felt like I needed a change of pace before I tried Anansi Boys, so I decided to read Coraline. It was a quick read, and a tad disturbing. No surprise there.
“How do I know you’ll keep your word?” asked Coraline.
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”
I had seen the movie first, which was just O.K., and was happy to discover how much I liked the book. Part fairy tale, part pure horror, part girl’s adventure story, Coraline deftly sketches tween angst. Coraline is caught not only between the real world and the alternate reality on the other side of the drawing room door, but between wanting to be independent and a child’s need for mommy and daddy. Aided by a black cat who can slip through both worlds, she uses her considerable smarts and sheer guts to not only get what she wants, but to help others.
“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?”
I recently saw the movie again on cable and was perplexed by some of the additions (neighborhood kid friend) and subtractions-the book had such a great visual of the other mother’s hair, blowing in an invisible wind, but the stop-motion style of the animation omitted this visual metaphor. But where the movie was really confusing was how it was marketed towards kiddies. Coraline is a creepy story. My six year old is too young for it-just a few moments flipping past it on television and she shouted out, “Too scary!” Animation is marketed towards a young audience. But those button eyes … But movies are different from books and Gaiman seems fine with how the film turned out.
Coraline is the perfect Halloween read, as long as you’re not afraid to encounter the beldam and would like to take a walk between worlds with a smart girl and a nameless cat.
“What’s your name,” Coraline asked the cat. “Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?”
“Cats don’t have names,” it said.
“No?” said Coraline.
“No,” said the cat. “Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”