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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Neverwhere

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Excerpt

Chapter One

She had been running for days now, a harum-scarum tumbling flight through passages and tunnels. She was hungry, and exhausted, and more tired than a body could stand, and each successive door was proving harder to open. After four days of flight, she had found a hiding place, a tiny stone burrow, under the world, where she would be safe, or so she prayed, and at last she slept.

* * *

Mr. Croup had hired Ross at the last Floating Market, which had been held in Westminster Abbey. "Think of him," he told Mr. Vandemar, "as a canary."

"Sings?" asked Mr. Vandemar.

"I doubt it; I sincerely and utterly doubt it." Mr. Croup ran a hand through his lank orange hair. "No, my fine friend, I was thinking metaphoncally — more along the lines of the birds they take down mines." Mr. Vandemar nodded, comprehension dawning slowly: yes, a canary. Mr. Ross had no other resemblance to a canary. He was huge-almost as big as Mr. Vandemar — and extremely grubby, and quite hairless, and he said very little, although he had made a point of telling each of them that he liked to kill things, and he was good at it; and this amused Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. But he was a canary, and he never knew it. So Mr. Ross went first, in his filthy T-shirt and his crusted blue-jeans, and Croup and Vandemar walked behind him, in their elegant black suits.

There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar's eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.

A rustle in the tunnel darkness; Mr. Vandemar's knife was in his hand, and then it was no longer in his hand, and it was quivering gently almost thirty feet away. He walked over to his knife and picked it up by the hilt. There was a gray rat impaled on the blade, its mouth opening and closing impotently as the life fled. He crushed its skull between finger and thumb.

"Now, there's one rat that won't be telling any more tales," said Mr. Croup. He chuckled at his own joke. Mr. Vandemar did not respond. "Rat. Tales. Get it?"

Mr. Vandemar pulled the rat from the blade and began to munch on it, thoughtfully, head first. Mr. Croup slapped it out of his hands. "Stop that," he said. Mr. Vandemar put his knife away, a little sullenly. "Buck up," hissed Mr. Croup, encouragingly.

"There will always be another rat. Now: onward. Things to do. People to damage."

* * *

Three years in London had not changed Richard, although it had changed the way he perceived the city. Richard had originally imagined London as a gray city, even a black city, from pictures he had seen, and he was surprised to find it filled with color. It was a city of red brick and white stone, red buses and large black taxis, bright red mailboxes and green grassy parks and cemeteries.

It was a city in which the very old and the awkwardly new jostled each other, not uncomfortably, but without respect; a city of shops and offices and restaurants and homes, of parks and churches, of ignored monuments and remarkably unpalatial palaces; a city of hundreds of districts with strange names — Crouch End, Chalk Farm, Earl's Court, Marble Arch — and oddly distinct identities; a noisy, dirty, cheerful, troubled city, which fed on tourists, needed them as it despised them, in which the average speed of transportation through the city had not increased in three hundred years, following five hundred years of fitful road-widening and unskillful compromises between the needs of traffic, whether horse-drawn, or, more recently, motorized, and the needs of pedestrians; a city inhabited by and teeming with people of every color and manner and kind.

When he had first arrived, he had found London huge, odd, fundamentally incomprehensible, with only the Tube map, that elegant multicolored topographical display of underground railway lines and stations, giving it any semblance of order. Gradually he realized that the Tube map was a handy fiction that made life easier but bore no resemblance to the reality of the shape of the city above. It was like belonging to a political party, he thought once, proudly, and then, having tried to explain the resemblance between the Tube map and politics, at a party, to a cluster of bewildered strangers, he had decided in the future to leave political comment to others.

He continued, slowly, by a process of osmosis and white knowledge (which is like white noise, only more useful), to comprehend the city, a process that accelerated when he realized that the actual City of London itself was no bigger than a square mile, stretching from Aldgate in the east to Fleet Street and the law courts of the Old Bailey in the west, a tiny municipality, now home to London's financial institutions, and that that was where it had all begun.

Two thousand years before, London had been a little Celtic village on the north shore of the Thames, which the Romans had encountered, then settled in. London had grown, slowly, until, roughly a thousand years later, it met the tiny Royal City of Westminster immediately to the west, and, once London Bridge had been built, London touched the town of Southwark directly across the river, and it continued to grow, fields and woods and marshland slowly vanishing beneath the flourishing town, and it continued to expand, encountering other little villages and hamlets as it grew, like Whitechapel and Deptford to the east, Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush to the west, Camden and Islington in the north, Battersea and Lambeth across the Thames to the south, absorbing all of them, just as a pool of mercury encounters and incorporates smaller beads of mercury, leaving only their names behind.

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jzboin, May 12, 2014 (view all comments by jzboin)
What an amazing read, this book was! I read it in only four days, which for me is getting through a book very quickly. First of all, the main character is immediately likable. The villains are very engaging, too. The story follows Richard, who appears to have it all figured out before he falls into London below, which he must escape in order to get back to his own world. There is an angel, there are rat people, and so much more for the fantasy novel readers out there. For the not necessarily fantasy readers there are great characters and there is a lot of heart. This was my first Neil Gaiman book, I now plan to read all the others, excuse me...
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
star athena, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by star athena)
Neverwhere is the first Neil Gaiman book I ever read. It's entertaining, compelling, dark, funny, spooky... I love it. The characters are original and the world is fascinating. It's like places and creatures in dreams. It's not just fantasy though, there are anchors about - the protagonist is a guy who is confused by this dark universe he has been thrust into from his safe cubicle. He gets to learn a lot about himself as he faces pretty scary situations. Read it already... Yes, this book made me a Gaiman fan.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
nrlymrtl, June 11, 2012 (view all comments by nrlymrtl)
I have read Neverwhere a few times over the past dozen years and each time I wish Neil Gaiman would write a sequel, or prequel, or additional book set in this world. This book still has so many mysteries to explore. Neverwhere, my first Gaiman book, showed me a different kind of fantasy, one without princess-gobbling dragons, puns, elderly wizards, or lengthy sword fights. It is urban fantasy, but more than that, it is about Richard finding his place in the world. He hungers for a top job at the office, to impress his girlfriend Jess, and be a very popular guy. But none of that is happening. In fact, one might look at Richard’s life and think it is a bit of a joke. He’s a paper-pusher, his friend makes snide jokes at his expense, and his girlfriend has his life planned out to meet her exacting standards. Poor dude. But then one evening a bloody girl ends up on the sidewalk in front of him, begging for help. Lady Door is in desperate need of assistance. Her family has been massacred by unknown assailants for mysterious reasons.

Neverwhere isn’t my favorite Gaiman book and I would even say it is not his best work. But it has a warm place in my heart and it is worth a reread every few years. The character development only goes so far and then plot drives the rest of the book. The story, while wrapped up for the immediate needs, leaves several questions churning in the reader’s head; hence, my desire to see another book set in this world.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780380789016
Author:
Gaiman, Neil
Publisher:
Avon
Author:
by Neil Gaiman
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
England
Subject:
London
Subject:
Fantasy - General
Subject:
Horror fiction
Subject:
Fantasy - Contemporary
Subject:
Horror tales
Subject:
Subways
Subject:
London (England) Fiction.
Subject:
London (england)
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy-Contemporary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass Market PB
Series Volume:
v. 3
Publication Date:
19981101
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
6.77x4.14x1.04 in. .43 lbs.

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Neverwhere Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Avon Books - English 9780380789016 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[Gaiman] is, simply put, a treasure house of story, and we are lucky to have him in any media."
"Review" by , "I didn't ever want this book to end... these characters are part of my life now."
"Review" by , "Some of the best pure storytelling around these days is being produced in the critically suspect genre of fantasy, and this exuberantly inventive first full-length novel, by the co-creator of the graphic series The Sandman (1996), is a state-of-the-art example.... consistently witty, suspenseful, and hair-raisingly imaginative in its contemporary transpositions of familiar folk and mythic materials... [Y]es, Virginia, there really are alligators in those sewers — and Gaiman makes you believe it." (starred review)
"Review" by , "[Neverwhere] is an Oz overrun by maniacs and monsters, and it becomes a Shangri-La for Richard. Excellent escapist fare."
"Synopsis" by , When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternate reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.
"Synopsis" by , Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart — and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed — a dark subculture flourish in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city — a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known...Richard Mayhew is a young businessman with a good heart and a dull job. When he stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternate reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations below the city. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.
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