I’m reading Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, a story collection, and wondering how often that phrase turns up in the slush pile if you’re Ellen Datlow or Weird Tales and wading thru the output of would-be writers of wistful, old-England-inflected, Gaimanesque fantasy.
Lights and liver
by Tom Crippen
It’s a great phrase, catchy (what with the alliteration and the long “i”) but grim, with a brief mental tickle as the brain fills in what “lights” must mean.
I remember Gaiman said somewhere that kids at conventions who were inspired by Dave McKean tended to show him works that used only McKean’s most obvious devices, such as little watch gears glued direct to the page. I imagine it’s the same for people imitating Gaiman, since he’s a man of many flourishes and catchy effects, stuff that it’s easy to fall in love with if you’re so inclined. “Lights and liver” calls out to be planted in narrations of supernatural errands, in sly dialogues between elves and ladies, in warnings to errant children from wise crones. Okay, I’ll stop. The point is that maybe the phrase pops up like a gnat when monitoring amateur fantasy output is part of your daily business.
Anyway, Smoke and Mirrors is going down pretty smooth with me, so I guess he knows what he’s doing. I even like the story-poems, which are done in freeform verse. I never would have thought I’d like them, but that’s the case.
I do think a lot of the stories, poem or otherwise, come down to a few oddments wrapped in a shifting, glimmering, translucent, etc., silk handkerchief of verbal atmosphere that itself depends on a small collection of devices that Gaiman uses from story to story. But if I like reading the book, then okay.