“It’s fine,” said October. His beard was all colors, a grove of trees in autumn, deep brown and fire orange and wine red, an untrimmed tangle across the lower half of his face. His cheeks were apple red.
He looked like a friend; like someone you had known all your life.
–Neil Gaiman, October in the Chair
Neil Gaiman writes some of the most tender, sweet passages I’ve ever read. Not saccharine or sentimental, just really nice and kind (and very British), the sort of thing you want to share with someone you love, perfect pictures of the little details of everyday life. Then you turn the page and he’s writing about processing babies for leather and meat.*
Gaiman’s works contain a lot of darkness, but it’s never crude or dehumanizing. The darkest moments often have a vulnerability about them that is appealing; other times, you don’t realize something is actually pretty dark until you’re three quarters of the way in. What he’s best at is taking a story you’ve read or lived millions of times — the outlines, if not the details — and twisting it so suddenly you’re looking at something completely new, but something that feels so absolutely right.