Alright, I debated with myself which book exactly I should cover in this entry, as I just recently got an awesome new title I’ve been waiting on by an author I’ve read quite a bit of, but all in all I decided it wouldn’t be fair to you guys to write about that until I finish the book. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing though child, because that will probably not take to long. Just a matter of days, really. Instead, I’m devoting this entry to a title I think will help further establish myself as a rather omnivorous reader with a pretty wide variety of tastes. I do this less to seem pretentious and more so no one gets whiplash when I go from covering, say, Walking Dead, (which you better believe I will. I’m on the 15th or 16th volume now,) to Gillian Flynn or some other writers in that delectably cerebral crime/thriller genre. I’m not even sure that’s most extreme I’ll get on the spectrum of crazy conflicting genres, but yeah. Just a heads up.
This’ll be the first graphic novel series I review, but by no means the first one to change my life. In fact, it’s generally classified as a taking place in the same world of another series very near and dear to my heart, Bill Willingham’s Fables, which is a lot like the series Once Upon a Time on ABC which you may have heard of, except better in every way and it came first and honestly I’ve looked into this an the case for a copyright infringement lawsuit seems kind of ripe to me, although I don’t see it happening. Basically, Fables tells the story of a bunch of fable and fairy tale characters living undercover in New York City. There’s this Dark Lord or whatever and Snow White kicks ass, but that’s an entry onto itself that I will elaborate on later. God, I’m am really just teasing you guys this entry. At least four references to books I really want to cover soon and I haven’t even formally introduced the star yet. My bad. Here we go:
The Unwritten takes the concept of famous, revered fairy tale characters becoming real and, instead of focusing on the lives of ancient ones like Snow White, Prince Charming, or Beauty and the Beast, focuses on the immortal fables and legends humans are birthing right now, or at least now and only a one century or so into the past of literature. Nothing medieval, I mean. Our protagonist is Tom Taylor, whose dad made him the basis for the character in his bestselling series, the Tommy Taylor books. Think Harry Potter, with the wizard school, magic, and crazy loyal fandom attached to it. Actually, as a bit of a wink to the audience, some book critic in one episode does reveal that J.K. Rowling and her books exist in this world, but they apparently pale in comparison to the literary Juggernaut that is Tommy Taylor. They also make similar references to Neil Gaiman and Dianna Wynne Jones occasionally. If any other lesser series tried to make a joke like that, I’d use reach through the book to whack the living crap out of whatever writer thought they could make such a wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke like that to the readers when the series was only just beginning, but Unwritten is just so dang marvelous that I only nodded and smiled. Writers Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Ryan Kelly aren’t trying to pander or parody here, they’re writing a love letter to literature here, and one worth reading to.
Anyhow, through a series of strange events, Tom finds out that his dad made him the real life “Tommy Taylor” not just to screw with him or see if his son would go all Gone Girl on him, but so Tom could harness the belief and manic loves his fans have for the series to become a sort of savior, a literary savior. He can walk between the real world and the literary one to “save” books and stories whose narratives may have become twisted or damaged throughout history, and of course there’s a sinister, secret cabal out there too, trying to control the entire narrative course of humanity. Seriously, this is the best sort of story for any book lover to read. I’m not going to explain much more than that, so you can go experience it for yourself, but here comes the personal part.
The Unwritten explores a whole lot of themes and ideas I’ve been dwelling over myself a lot lately. Really, it’s stuff that I start to think about whenever professors start whispering at me that I should really be coming up with a concept for my thesis now, and its fodder I like to angrily throw at skeptics whenever they ask what the point of an English major. Stories and narratives permeate our everyday lives in the most intense and sometimes intimate ways. We see the world and everyone on it through the frames and filters of stories that we’ve heard, that we tell ourselves. People make dumb jokes or even sincere remarks about how everything we do is to impress an attractive member of the opposite sex and procreate, but I maintain we do just about anything, hope for just about anything, because of a story someone told us somewhere along the line that locked itself somewhere in our hearts and gave us a view of something brilliant, some order or reality we wanted to explore and share with everyone. I’m not gonna say anything about whether those stories are true or not, because with things that close to your heart, with your “raison d’etre,” it shouldn’t matter. With ideas like the ones we cluster close in our hearts, the last thing that matters is whether or not the are a part of the “real world” in a literal way that’s weird to think about unless you happen to be a scientist, or perhaps a historian, (who, I should be clear, also have their own stories in their hearts and eyes, even if it doesn’t seem like it.)
It’s a topic that I know is very popular among writers, especially some of the ones I mention in this entry, and plenty others say much more poignant and well worded things about it than I do in all likelihood. If the world was full of writers, I don’t know if I’d feel such a connection to the topic, or such a need to basically preach about it, (and arguably make a blog about, I just realized,) but that is not the world I’m sitting in a chair and typing from. If you happen to be receiving this post from such a world, kudos to you. I bet it’s really hard to find a good accountant there. I, meanwhile, continue to live with a bunch of mostly polite but often dismissive folks from the STEM (Science tech engineering and math, perfectly nice disciplines in and of themselves) who really do need to remember that their bones are held together just as much by the stories they were once told as kids or forced to read in school as they are by ligaments and muscles. Forgetting how many stories swirl around in your supposedly objective or clear-headed world view makes it very easy for just about anyone, evil cabal, Dark Lord, or other, to come in, grab that power, and pull the whole world around by it. And dear old Tommy Taylor will not be able to help you, not unless you read his books.