21st Century Literature discussion

Stardust
This topic is about Stardust
50 views
1/20 Stardust > Stardust - Whole Book (spoilers ok)

Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Bretnie | 569 comments What did you think?

At the end of the audiobook, Neil Gaiman describes this book as an adult fairy tale. Did that ring true?


Nadine (nadinekc) | 411 comments Like you, Brittany, I gave it four stars. It was a great way to start a new reading decade!

Of the Gaiman books I've read, I either love them (American Gods), like them well enough (Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane), or DNF (Anansi Boys). I don't know what the logic is behind my taste if any, but I think what can turn me off Gaiman is the feeling that he's telling an adult story with middle grade (age) writing. I've read some wonderful middle grades lit, so I don't think I have a bias, it's just that it doesn't mesh right for me. I didn't have that problem with Stardust, it meshed perfectly, and I think it's because of the fairy tale feeling. And I like that he has characters that pee and poo in the story on occasion - felt like an affectionate parodying of fairy tales, and of lit in general.


Bretnie | 569 comments Well said Nadine - you hit on one of the questions I was going to ask. What other Gaiman books have you read and how does this one compare?

We have similar Gaiman tastes - I’d rank those books the same (although I did finish Anansi Boys but it’s my least favorite). I really enjoyed Good Omens (in partnership with Terry Pratchett) and would put it up there with American Gods.

This book felt so different than his others, but in a good way. Maybe I had lower expectations?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments I read this in May 2012. I did not write a review but gave it 5 stars. I do remember it as being a fairy tale but not necessarily an adult one but one for all ages. I've read a lot of Gaiman's books, in print and in audio. I like them both ways! I think the first one I read (in audio but later bought the book and listened to the BBC audio production) was Neverwhere and I was smitten. I shelved it as read in 2013 but it was the first Gaiman I read and was pre-Goodreads membership. I've read 10 total and given them all either a 4 or 5 star rating. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was a favorite. Another favorite was Coraline. I read that first in audio (now that I think about it, it may have been my first Gaiman) and then my sister gave me a paperback she had signed by Gaiman at a Sci-Fi Con.


message 5: by Lily (last edited Jan 16, 2020 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments I am not a Neil Gaiman fan, but I have not tried the so-well touted American Gods. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a selection of my f2f book club, left me leery about trying another, but when Stardust came up as a selection here, I decided to give it a try. I hope those of you who enjoy his work will help me learn how to understand and appreciate his work. He clearly can reach a large audience.


Bretnie | 569 comments Going in to this book it felt very different than both Gaiman's other books and other books I usually read. But the more I think of it, there are probably other novels out there that compare. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant comes to mind. Any others?


Bretnie | 569 comments I'm also curious to hear what people thought of the characters. Did the fantasy/fairy tale feel of the book influence how you viewed the characters?

I found myself impatient and a bit eye-rolly with Tristan at the beginning of the book, but really liking him and the rest of the characters by the end.


Elaine | 103 comments I found it read as an adult fairy tale. The characters worked for me -- I found Tristan very sympathetic. Above and beyond the tale, which I gave three stars, I much preferred the epilogue, in which Gaiman discusses the importance of myth -- how myths change over time but always resonate in stories.

I prefer Gaiman's other work, esp Snow, Apples, Glass, his retelling of Snow White. It's very powerful and requires deep interpretation as superficially it seems misogynist when actually it's about the horrors of internalized misogyny under patriarchy.

I also read Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Thematically, Gaiman's work seems to hinge on undergoing a dark journey and returning transformed. This seems to be an experience we all have to undergo in some form or another. Many spiritual leaders today suggest that this is what we are undergoing collectively -- a dark night of the soul.

I plan on reading more of Gaiman's works.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Bretnie wrote: "I'm also curious to hear what people thought of the characters. Did the fantasy/fairy tale feel of the book influence how you viewed the characters?

I found myself impatient and a bit eye-rolly wi..."


Since the book is really a chronicle of Tristan's growth from callow youngster to responsible and thoughtful adult, I think it's natural that people might find him off-putting at the beginning.

Interesting question about looking at characters differently in a fairy tale. I certainly do. When you have a character who's a witch or a unicorn etc.., we're already starting with assumptions based on archetypes. From there, the archetypes are either being fleshed out, or, as in many modern retellings subverted. I think Gaiman is more in the fleshing out than the subverting category.


message 10: by Bretnie (last edited Jan 22, 2020 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bretnie | 569 comments Elaine wrote: "I also read Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Thematically, Gaiman's work seems to hinge on undergoing a dark journey and returning transformed. This seems to be an experience we all have to undergo in some form or another. Many spiritual leaders today suggest that this is what we are undergoing collectively -- a dark night of the soul."

Somehow I hadn't made that connection, but you're right, Elaine!

Whitney wrote: "When you have a character who's a witch or a unicorn etc.., we're already starting with assumptions based on archetypes. From there, the archetypes are either being fleshed out, or, as in many modern retellings subverted. I think Gaiman is more in the fleshing out than the subverting category."

This is so true. I did like the witches and how he characterized them different from each other. A little bit traditional witch, a little bit sympathetic old women, a lot of personality.


Bretnie | 569 comments We haven't talked a lot about the content of the book itself. What parts did you like? What did you dislike? What was surprising?


Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 120 comments I listened to the audiobook for this one and I really enjoyed it, I have listened to one other audiobook narrated by Gaiman, Norse Mythology which I also liked.
Sadly I have watched the movie based on this book many times even before I knew it was a book so it was hard to separate the two and not compare as I was listening. I did think the book is a bit darker and reads more like a fairy tale. I enjoyed Tristan's journey and his relationship with the star.

Some parts reminded me of Norse Mythology as well, the adventures he goes through before finding the star and all of that, I think Gaiman was influenced by mythology as well when writing this book.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 64 comments Bretnie wrote: "...Neil Gaiman describes this book as an adult fairy tale. Did that ring true?"

I thought so. In fact, those are the exact words I used to describe the book when I finished reading it for the first time.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 64 comments Bretnie wrote: "We haven't talked a lot about the content of the book itself. What parts did you like? What did you dislike? What was surprising?"

The first time I read the book, I enjoyed Gaiman's prose as well as the lovely story. This last time I re-read it, I focused more on the pre-Tolkien fantasy style of the story, the feel of something that might have been written by Lord Dunsany of whom Gaiman is a great admirer. I also noticed that Tristran might have been more than a little bit like Gaiman himself.


Bretnie | 569 comments RJ wrote: "I also noticed that Tristran might have been more than a little bit like Gaiman himself. "

Ooh, I'm intrigued to hear more about this RJ! In what ways?


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
I'd like to hear your answer as well, RJ.

Certainly the young male naif stumbling upon a magical world existing alongside this one is a common Gaiman trope, such as Stardust, The Ocean At the End of the Lane, and Neverwhere. One of my favorite short stories in this vein is "How to Talk to Girls At Parties" (nothing like the movie version), in which adolescent boys' confusion about females is used brilliantly.

Regarding the previous discussion of people's experience with Gaiman, it's the Sandman graphic novels that made me fall in love with his work. I've enjoyed several of his books, but none compare to the original run of Sandman in my esteem.


Tiffany | 83 comments Bretnie wrote: "I'm also curious to hear what people thought of the characters. Did the fantasy/fairy tale feel of the book influence how you viewed the characters?

I found myself impatient and a bit eye-rolly with Tristan at the beginning of the book, but really liking him and the rest of the characters by the end."


I think the fantasy/fairy tale intent of the book did influence how I viewed the characters in that I DIDN'T roll my eyes at Tristran and Yvaine and Victoria. I think if it hadn't been a fairy tale and was supposed to just be a plain fiction book, I would have had it with them and their soap opera overacting and would have given up. But for some reason, that over-the-top-ness is almost expected in a fairy tale. And I read everything very sing-songy in my head, too :)


Tiffany | 83 comments Bretnie wrote: "We haven't talked a lot about the content of the book itself. What parts did you like? What did you dislike? What was surprising?"

I liked all of it. It was a very good fantasy with witches and bad guys and fairies and magical journeys and whatnot. I don't have a problem reading YA books, even as an adult, so the "it's a fairy tale for adults" didn't specifically persuade me to read it, and I would have been fine if this had been a YA fairy tale. I *was*, however, quite surprised by the couple of sections where, um, some of the action quickly wandered into PG-13/R-rated territory. Oh my!


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 64 comments Bretnie wrote: "RJ wrote: "I also noticed that Tristran might have been more than a little bit like Gaiman himself. "

Ooh, I'm intrigued to hear more about this RJ! In what ways?"


Haha I don't have any special knowledge here. Maybe that sounded funny the way I said it. It just felt personal to me as I was reading it, as though Gaiman drew upon some of his own youthful awkwardness as he wrote the character. I also feel like I read something somewhere where he mentioned that Tristran had some of himself in him, but I'd never be able to remember where I read it, if I even did.


Bretnie | 569 comments RJ from the LBC wrote: "Haha I don't have any special knowledge here. Maybe that sounded funny the way I said it. It just felt personal to me as I was reading it, as though Gaiman drew upon some of his own youthful awkwardness as he wrote the character. I also feel like I read something somewhere where he mentioned that Tristran had some of himself in him, but I'd never be able to remember where I read it, if I even did."

Ha, thanks! I don't know much about Gaiman, so I was curious if there was some key thing I was missing, but I like picturing him in his youth as an awkward youth. :)


message 21: by Lily (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments This book is surprising me. I am reading it extremely slowly, at least for me, a few pages at a time, not infrequently with a gap of days. But its charm (and illustrations) keep me coming back. Always, some passage catches my ear or creates a surprising image. I'll cite some examples sometime when I have the text in hand. Somehow, I am entranced by the shadowy brothers, as their number grows in sinister tropes. I'm not so sure but what mythical creatures are both fleshed out AND subverted, but I would be curious what others here consider examples of either. (I find my comfort with knowing the archetypes in question.)


Bretnie | 569 comments Lily wrote: "This book is surprising me. I am reading it extremely slowly, at least for me, a few pages at a time, not infrequently with a gap of days. But its charm (and illustrations) keep me coming back. Alw..."

Keep us updated as you move through the book! I'm glad you found the illustrated version!


message 23: by Lily (last edited Feb 13, 2020 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments I promised some of the phrases that caught my ear. Here is one of them: "turning every winding river into a thin silver snail-trail..." Tristran and Yvaine are sitting high in the clouds, seeing "Far, far below them...the real world." It was only a few years ago that I learned of snail-trails, probably in something like a National Geographic photography special. The metaphor seemed so apt here, but who would have thought of it. (p153 in my copy)

I smiled at this one: "Tristran sat at the top of the tower of cloud and wondered why none of the heroes of the penny dreadfuls he used to read so avidly were ever hungry. His stomach rumbled..." There have been other places where I have felt the words so accurately and surprisingly captured the likely attitudes of a boy/man.


Bretnie | 569 comments I love these, thanks for sharing them Lily!


message 25: by Lily (last edited Feb 14, 2020 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Bretnie wrote: "Keep us updated as you move through the book! I'm glad you found the illustrated version! ..."

I, too, am glad I found the illustrated version, in fact, the illustrated version that includes over thirty pages labelled "Behind the Veil, An exclusive journey through the making of STARDUST." It includes "The Complete STARDUST Proposal," a rather fascinating prospectus.

I stumbled when reading the initiating John Donne poem, which can be found here as well: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem...

On a Valentine's Day when we await the jury verdict on one of the more infamous #MeToo cases, I didn't recall knowing previously the misogyny expressed in this otherwise lovely, haunting poem, i.e., not a poem to which I had paid close attention.

I don't know quite what, if anything, to do with this little tidbit of knowledge, as I lay it against the tales about fidelity and trust and worthiness which Gaiman entwines throughout Stardust.

PS -- here is a link to a critique of the poem, which I neglected to include earlier: https://interestingliterature.com/201...


message 26: by Whitney (last edited Feb 14, 2020 07:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "I don't know quite what, if anything, to do with this little tidbit of knowledge, as I lay it against the tales about fidelity and trust and worthiness which Gaiman entwines throughout Stardust..."

Good point about the poem, Lily. Certainly the main thing that Gaiman takes is Donne's assertion that finding a good and true women is as impossible as catching a falling star, so he sets his hero off to literally catch said star.

I don't think Gaiman overcame the sexism you point out in the poem. My main criticism of Stardust, as much as I like it, is its undercurrent of sexism. Female characters do have agency, but at the heart of it is a women who ends up falling in love with someone who literally chained her to himself. I know Tristran felt bad about it and all that, but the trope of the women falling for her captor (and in more extreme cases rapist) is not one I'm overly fond of, and Gaiman didn't in any way subvert it here, just made it a bit more gentle.

I would say the same thing about his use of the trope of the witches / crones who only live to get their youthful beauty back. I.e. the value of a women is in said youth beauty, (which is equivalent to their attractiveness to men). They are made a tad more sympathetic in Stardust, but on the whole the trope remains intact.


message 27: by Lily (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Whitney wrote: "the trope of .. women falling for her captor ...Gaiman didn't in any way subvert ... here, just made it a bit more gentle. ..."

Thanks for your thoughtful words, Whitney. As you may have noticed, I have been in the throes of Sterne's Tristram Shandy and it has really struck me how long the homunculus theory of conception prevailed, even though some of the most ancient of divinities may have been fertile goddess figures. I am probably one of the few who gave two stars to Milton's Paradise Lost, not because it isn't great literature, but because of its pernicious effect on the perceptions of women. And I certainly don't think of myself as strident, let alone militant, on these matters -- more, what can, should we do going forward.


Bretnie | 569 comments Whitney, your points have been in the back of my mind while reading and thinking about this book. I wondered if it was written today vs the 90s (which is usually excluded from discussions here) if Gaiman might give it a different feel. I'm not sure, since, of the books of his I've read, they are pretty male-centric.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 64 comments Whitney wrote: "I don't think Gaiman overcame the sexism you point out in the poem. My main criticism of Stardust, as much as I like it, is its undercurrent of sexism. Female characters do have agency, but at the heart of it is a women who ends up falling in love with someone who literally chained her to himself. I know Tristran felt bad about it and all that, but the trope of the women falling for her captor (and in more extreme cases rapist) is not one I'm overly fond of, and Gaiman didn't in any way subvert it here, just made it a bit more gentle..."

I don't know if I would disagree with you because your point is very valid. But I might add that, to the best of my recollection, she falls in love with him AFTER he releases her. When I read it, especially the second time through, I thought Gaiman was making the point that (and this sounds like a song by Sting) to love someone you must set them free. Gaiman usually has strong female characters in his books and his real-life partner Amanda Palmer is a performer in her own right and they are very publicly supportive of each other and seem to treat each other as equals, so those things may have colored the way I interpreted the events in the story.


message 30: by Sam (new)

Sam | 176 comments I want to thank Bretnie for the nomination and discussion of Stardust. I found the dicussion interesting. I like Gaiman and find his respect for the genre in which he works admirable. If you have ever sat with a preschooler and listened to the child tell a story where elements of reality and imagination are incorporated into their telling with no evidence of self-consciousness or an awareness of the difference between the two, you will sit in wistful wonder at that imagination. That is how I feel about Gaiman. I just like to enjoy him try and let myself get as close as I can to a state I remember in the past where stories could generate imagining that later laying on my back in a field, I could play out against sky of passing clouds. I don't like to ground myself with too much technical thought of what he is deconstructing or reconstructing. Stardust seems to stem from somewhere between "catch a falling star,' and, "when you wish upon a star," where Gaiman is not trying as hard to connect to reality as he is to build on and add to collective fantasy. I like to think that this type of fiction has some potential future importance beyond escapism as we get closer to defining individual consciousness as an imaginative construct, but the thought is beyond me and better left for a future chat.


message 31: by Whitney (last edited Feb 20, 2020 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Sam wrote: "If you have ever sat with a preschooler and listened to the child tell a story where elements of reality and imagination are incorporated into their telling with no evidence of self-consciousness or an awareness of the difference between the two, you will sit in wistful wonder at that imagination..."

I love this characterization. I like the way Gaiman presents his worlds without a lot of finger pointing at how weird and fantastic things are, but frequently leaves us to ponder them as tourists in a strange country.

I like to think that this type of fiction has some potential future importance beyond escapism... You are wandering into 'open can or worms' territory here. Gaiman, as well as many other prominent fantasy authors, have addressed the "this is just escapism" charge leveled at fantasy. Gaiman's response;

“I'd like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it's a bad thing. As if "escapist" fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real."




Bretnie | 569 comments Sam wrote: "I want to thank Bretnie for the nomination and discussion of Stardust. I found the dicussion interesting. I like Gaiman and find his respect for the genre in which he works admirable. If you have e..."

I want to thank everyone for reading the book and joining in the discussion!


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Yes, thanks Bretnie, and participants. Good discussion!


message 34: by Lily (last edited Feb 20, 2020 08:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Bretnie, thanks for moving Neil Gaiman from my "should read again list ( American Gods )" to my "open to be willing to do so." (My first encounter had left me cold.)

As you all by now have heard me say, I was absolutely captivated by the collaboration with Charles Vess.

And, thank you all (I'll call out especially Whitney, Sam, and RJ) for your thoughtful perspectives.

(The DVD of the film sits alongside my TV, waiting to be watched before the library asks for it back.)

One last quotation: "His fingers touched the chain that bound them: cold as snow it was, and tenuous as moonlight on a millpond, or the glint of light on a trout's silver scales as it rises at dusk to feed." p. 111 (So much in this single sentence about bondage and freedom in tension. So many passages about light, moon, starlight, glitter, sparkle, glow, twinkle, ...)


Tiffany | 83 comments Lily wrote: "...(The DVD of the film sits alongside my TV, waiting to be watched before the library asks for it back.) ..."

Here, too! I was finally able to get a copy from the library last night, so I'm hoping to watch it this weekend :)


Bretnie | 569 comments Small world stuff - last night a friend was talking about their love for Henry Cavill, who I didn't know, but turns out he played Humphrey in the Stardust movie. :)


message 37: by Lily (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Bretnie wrote: "Small world stuff - last night a friend was talking about their love for Henry Cavill, who I didn't know, but turns out he played Humphrey in the Stardust movie. :)"

Thanks for that tidbit, Bretnie. I just watched the film. While I much prefer the storyline of the text and the illustrations of Vess, it was fascinating to consider the transformation from one form to another. In the extras on the film's creation, Gaiman speaks to the sense of humility in watching what took him "only" brain power, i.e., imagination, to create, is taking innumerable skills to translate into the details of the ship's deck, let alone the other aspects of the set. (And is not that translation from imagination to material reality not unlike that behind our cellphones, our vaccines, our heart stents, lithium batteries, ....)

I know probably thousands more have seen the film than have read the story, let alone the edition with Vess's drawings, but I do so wish .... upon a star?

Besides thanks to Bretnie for this nomination, thanks to the 21st Century board moderators for bending the rules that allowed the selection of Stardust.


back to top