It was a Friday afternoon. Richard had noticed that events were cowards: they didnt occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.
–Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
This website, and even more specifically this blog, was intended to catalog my personal creative work. However, today and possibly again in the future, I would like to ponder over the words of someone else. I believe the advice to be well known; that in order to write you must first read. With the start of another year, lists are formed and upon many of ours will be the notion to read more. So I have done just that, having been given a book by a loved one and told, “Please read this.” More than the pleasure of whatever story I may find within the pages, I am pulled by the sense of responsibility to fulfill their request. To read so as to draw a new connection, not out of necessity but out of gratitude and love.
The book was Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. He ranks as a favorite author of mine, among an ever growing list of others. The aforementioned quote is taken from the first chapter, being narrated by the main character who had moved to the city of London alone as a young adult. Having been flung into the turmoil of daily adult life, the young man named Richard remarks that events were cowards.
I was standing in line to order lunch when I read that phrase. A sensation akin to when you open a door to the gusting wind took me and I was in turmoil, reacting to a phrase I thought so clever that I nearly forgot the pangs of hunger from skipping breakfast.
Events are cowards. Can’t you just see that?! See the birthdays and meetings planned long in advance cower in the corners of our minds, doing their very best to go unnoticed. Then at the last moment, they make themselves known, surprising us with dread. I thought the analogy to be so eloquent to describe the character’s mindset and mood. Given a derogatory sense that pulls a dark filter upon any event, however pleasant it may turn out to be. For the character of Richard, events slip past his conscious mind and he hates them for it. They create turmoil for him, and I believe (since I have decided to remark on it before even finishing the chapter from which it existed) that he blames them for a sense of dread that he feels.
This conclusion is my own, and I do not mean to persuade you in following this line of thought if you pick up the book yourself, but I do ask you to remark the poignancy of the phrase, events are cowards as a truly remarkable use of personification. It is an elegant bridge between a fictitious character and real-life audience. I was grabbed by the description and could not help but replicate it with my own previous experiences. I too have been “jumped” by events that hid themselves in the forgotten corner of my mind. Without any warning, the author had bridged his fictitious creation with my reality.
I seek now to replicate this amazing feat. Connections through the talent of words. Descriptions that bridge time and space with the ones who read it.