KING OF DREAMS
DC Comics/Watson-Guptill Publishers
November 4, 2003
A lavishly illustrated insider's guide to Neil Gaiman's multi-award winning Sandman series. (Or, as I prefer to call it, An Introduction to the Sexiest Anthropomorphism in Comics).
Let’s talk a little about guilty pleasure.
No, not that kind. That’s between you and your conscience. I’m talking about the kind of guilty pleasure that can be enjoyed in public without the risk of incurring legal action or incarceration.
Back when I was attending Columbia University’s MFA program, I had to spend an equal amount of time defending my two chief guilty pleasures – romance novels and comic books.
It seems that a lot of aspiring literary writers felt there was something inherently shallow about the medium of comics and the genre of romance.
Why? Well, my classmates argued (over espresso and Marlboros) pictures were a distraction from words; how much complexity could you fit into a word balloon? And as for romances, well, not even serious grad students taking Modern Feminist Theory, who had romance novels on their reading lists, risked being seen in the local coffee shop with a glossy mass-market paperback featuring a Viking on the cover. After all, how much social or psychological insight could be found in a novel of courtship with a predetermined happy ending?
My answer is: Plenty.
Comics, at least the ones that appeal to me, like The Sandman, find new, emotionally satisfying ways to play with the old myths and use the juxtaposition of words and images to convey what words or pictures alone cannot.
Romance and chick-lit novels, at least the ones I enjoy, know that you can’t achieve the funny or the erotic without removing a few layers of social convention and laying yourself bare. As Jane Austen demonstrated, novels of courtship lend themselves to satire, because there is a wonderful tension between the anarchic force of lust and the societal construct of marriage.
So here I am, many years on down the road from grad school and still defending my guilty pleasures. Because, hey, it wasn’t so very long ago that novels were considered an inherently shallow form. And if no one had taken a stand, we’d all be stuck reading a hell of a lot of epic poetry.
At least in public, when other people were watching.
p.s. My other guilty pleasures include The Poseidon Adventure, Miami Beach, Xenophile comics, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, all books by Laurell K. Hamilton and fried dough in all its many ethnic varieties.