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Season of Mists. The Books of Magic.
We learn about his relationship with Calliope, and his son, Orpheus, whose own story is the stuff of Greek legend. In that sense, the story can be read as pure exposition, but that would completely ignore how wonderful it is as its own story. But Genevieve, what did you think Gaiman was trying to get across here?
Following the trauma of having her kittens taken from her, the Siamese cat ventures into The Dreaming seeking justice, revelation, and wisdom, but the carrion bird she meets there tells her justice and wisdom have no place in the world of dreams; only revelation is the province of The Dreaming. The history of humanity, everything from religion to politics to art, comes down to stories, to narratives that shape how people think and act.
Revelation leads to wisdom, which has the power to realize justice. Pretty heady stuff for a story about kitty cats, right? The best stories work on several levels, which means they can sustain multiple readings and engender discussions such as this one.
The next issue in Dream Country doubles down on this, being a multi-layered story centered on a text and writer that have long invited multi-layered analysis. Puck is usually played as simply mischievous, but Charles Vess draws him here with burning red eyes and long, claw-like hands. This is not the Puck you saw your friend play in high school.
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This gets back to the idea of retelling stories. Gaiman is no actor, but this is his Puck, and this iteration is a bit scarier than how we usually see him. This particular story is my favorite from Dream Country , mostly for how well Gaiman juggles the many plotlines. Rainie could easily be replaced with a quadriplegic, or the child she sees in the wheelchair while at lunch. Many people whose bodies have dramatically changed have psychological issues involving identity, and the way they move forward is to accept their new situations.
Do you think Gaiman is onto something in using Rainie as an extreme example of the human condition?
Superheroes being modern-day myths. Like many superheroes, Rainie is the product of a mythological context, a normal human who was drawn into another world where sun gods fight serpent gods in never-ending battles that apparently actually do end after a few millennia. So yes, Noah, I do think Gaiman is using Rainie as an extreme example of the human condition. She has literally been transformed by story, by legend, and has subsequently become a mythological figure herself, albeit a tragic one who never wanted or knew what she was getting herself into.
This is literalized in her isolation from the rest of society, and in her rundown of all the ways in which she is unable to kill herself. Gaiman is a brilliant writer who imbued Sandman with layers and layers of meaning, but picking apart those layers too much can leave you with a bunch of isolated, flimsy sheets.
I absolutely love what you said about myths not dying.