Our assignment was to read issues six and seven: 24 Hours and Sound and Fury. Glyph was kind enough to write the recaps. (Warning, these issues were intense. If you’ve read them already, you already know that. If you haven’t, just watch out while reading the recaps. This *IS* a horror series I keep having to remember.)
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
Sandman #6 – 24 Notes on “24 Hours”
“24 Hours” is exactly 24 pages.
“24 Hours” is also the name of a song by seminally-bleak British postpunk band Joy Division (later to become the arguably even more influential dance-rock band New Order, after the epileptic and depressive original singer’s suicide). At that same YouTube link you can see the lyrics, containing several references to “Destiny”. Given that Judy has a Joy Division logo on her jacket, and Gaiman’s a gothy Brit who would have been a young man when Joy Division was big, this is all unlikely to be coincidental. (If you really want to get further depressed, this is the source of the band’s name; this will not be the last Nazi-related Note you find here.)
“24 Hours” is structured around a narrative clock. This technique pretty reliably unsettles me, because horror often works by juxtaposing the mundane/banal/dispassionate with the terrifying – and what is more dispassionate than a narrator simply ticking off horrifying events on a timeline? Events are either inevitable; or they have already occurred. There will be no escape, because clocks don’t care. Stephen King (hey, remember Morpheus’ guards in issue #1 reading It?) used a similar ‘diary-entry’ trick in the grisly short story Survivor Type (about a shipwreck victim who resorts to auto-cannibalism) and IIRC, the first part of The Stand does something similar, methodically detailing various days as ‘steps’ in the world’s collapse due to the accidental release of a deadly biological agent (this will not be the last King-related Note you find here.)
Since Dee walks to the diner from the storage facility, it seems safe to assume the diner is also in Mayhew. I guess flipping the final letter of the town’s name upside-down would be just a little too on-the-nose for what we are about to see – or, leave the spelling as-is, with “hew” defined as “chop or cut”. Either way, the town’s name seems like wordplay.
“24 Hours” has some meta-commentary on writing, as Bette, and later Dee, (and ultimately Gaiman) use the victims in the diner as raw material, manipulating them to their own ends.
Note the sheep picture that appears at or near our introduction to each victim. It appears to be the same picture, but if it is ‘real’ it is either posted all over the diner, or it moves around. SYMBOLISM!
Judy is a punk. Whql’f hafrra ybire Qbaan, jvgu jubz fur unf unq n svtug, jvyy nccrne yngre va gur frevrf.
Hour 8: Stephen King again – in Bette’s (Gaiman’s?) fantasy, she (he?) has dislodged King from the bestseller lists.
Hour 11: “The Amazing Herschel and Betty” are awesome, and I want to read about their adventures (“Well, me and Betty, we figure it’s probably rays.”)
Hour 12: Kate Fletcher’s confessional story here is likely based on that of an infamous Sacramento necrophiliac named Karen Greenlee. If you have a strong stomach and so desire, you can see some similarities in their stories (WARNING: DISTURBING TEXT IN THE LINKED INTERVIEW THAT FOLLOWS) here.
Hour 13: “The Addams Family”. Ha! But note the hammer & nails…
Hour 14: Hey, it’s the Fates/Weird Sisters again. I am unsure if they are really speaking through the women; it seems they may be (one seems to describe Arkham Asylum), but Dee keeps demanding his fortune until he gets the answer he wants.
Hour 14: The table clock (under a glass dome) appears to be the same one that Lucifer had in Hell. I have no idea what that means, unless it’s meant to be a “Hell is now on Earth” kind of thing; or if the image of the clock’s inner workings trapped under glass, like an insect, represents the victims and events in the diner; either way, looks like more SYMBOLISM!
Hour 15: “He gave them back their minds for a little while.” The victims ask “Why?”; Dee’s response is a simple, “Because I can.” Completely horrific to me, and evokes again the Holocaust. From here:
Many know the anecdote from Survival in Auschwitz, Levi’s famous memoir of Auschwitz that was published in English as If This Is a Man. Levi, a young prisoner in Auschwitz suffering from thirst, noticed an icicle through his cell window and sought to grab it. A Nazi guard knocked it out of his hand. “Warum?” (“Why?”), asked Levi. “Hier ist kein warum” (“Here there is no why”), answered the guard in a phrase that became symbolic of the Holocaust’s careening away from rationality itself.
Hour 16: Murder in the Dark – 4 solid black panels do so much with so little.
Hour 17: Remember the hammer & nails? Now we get a crucifixion of sorts.
Hour 18: “The old male gnaws at his trapped front leg. It has followed the pack at a distance for years, hunting for scraps.” The whole “beast” sequence, narrated like a nature documentary, is harrowing; but for whatever reason this first part gets me the most. How many broken people are out there that you will see this way, once you start thinking of “humans” in terms of “dog packs” or “baboon troops”? It’s an image that, once seen, is very hard to un-see.
Dee has entertained himself by putting his victims through many varieties of transcendent human experience – sex, truth-telling/catharsis, story-telling/fantasy, religious ecstasy/worship/sacrifice, and pure animal violence.
Dee then grows bored, and finishes early…all victims appear to be dead by Hour 22, and Dee then spends 2 more hours waiting for Morpheus – in a universe ruled by mad god Dee, not even the predetermined schedule is reliable. Also – and I am so, so sorry to point this out – but Kate’s fantasy for Garry, as described in Hour 12, appears to have been realized. I am assuming those are entrails/viscera.
Hour 23: After killing all of his metaphorical flies, Dee catches and eats a real fly, like Renfield.
How ballsy a narrative choice is it that our “hero” doesn’t arrive in the nick of time? He’s two hours too late to save anyone at all.
And when Morpehus arrives, he is not particularly concerned about the victims anyway; only with retrieving his ruby. If clocks don’t care, neither do gods.
Completely specious theory that I can’t quite make work: Do the 7 occupants of the diner (6 victims + Dee) somehow represent the Seven Deadly Sins? I can get a pretty easy fit for all of them except “envy”. I am probably reaching here.
“24 Hours” is a pretty hard issue to read, let alone ‘enjoy’ in the usual sense of the word. But structurally and narratively, it’s really a risky and memorable piece of work. These are flawed – in some cases deeply flawed – characters, yet in 24 pages Gaiman manages to make us care about their fate anyway. And any worries that the next villain after Lucifer and demons would seem anticlimactic are thoroughly quashed here – John Dee is shown to have godlike power and to be beholden to no morality, causing horrific suffering and death solely for his own entertainment.
Sandman #7 – “Sound and Fury”
OK, I need some help from you guys on this one.
On one level, this issue is just a ‘fight scene’.
A lot of times on TV shows or movies you can sort of tune out the fight scenes, enjoyable as they can be, because all you usually *really* need to know from a story perspective is, “who won/lost, and what did it gain/cost them?”
Likewise, I think I largely have glossed over a lot of this issue each time I have read it before.
So here’s what jumps out to me, now that I look closer.
The issue is called “Sound and Fury”.
The first and (almost) last word of the story is “Listen” (=Sound).
But when Dee is wrecking up the Dreamtime (=Fury), his dialogue contains multiple and repeated variants of the verb “to see/watch/show” (“Show yourself; Can you see me? (3x); Look!; Watch me! (2x); Mother, if you could only see me now”). And when Dee is returned to Arkham, Scarecrow at first cannot see him, until he adjusts his spectacles.
So there is seemingly some implied contrast between ‘seeing’ (which Dee is interested in) vs. ‘listening’ (which the narration, and by implication Morpheus, are interested in).
But I can’t neatly tie this observation into the actual events or Dream’s eventual victory (which originally seemed like a bit of a story cheat to me – but on this re-read, I noticed how Gaiman set up the idea that the destruction of Dream’s objects causes him to regain their power, all the way back in issue #2!)
Any ideas? Am I missing something obvious? Or did Gaiman not fully follow through on this thematic setup?
It’s striking to me how slow Dream is to comprehend what it is that Dee is doing with the ruby, and why. He just can’t bring himself to believe someone would do such a thing – drive the world mad, just because they can. Just as Dream does not know much about superheroes, he also doesn’t understand super-villains – their motives are incomprehensible to him. Both superheroes and villains arose to prominence during Dream’s imprisonment – in fact, given the timeframe and the retconned “Wesley Dodd Sandman” origin story we got in issue #1, we may be meant to infer that the rise of both was largely because of Dream’s imprisonment. Dream himself is methodical and orderly, but “The sleep (or imprisonment) of reason produces monsters”. Less abstractly, Dream’s capture and loss of his ruby can be said to have helped “create” John Dee as we see him now.
The Fates/Weird Sisters show up again, giving the Macbeth (natch!) quote that provides the issue’s name. They may have Dee’s mother’s face, as Dee/we can see from the Ethel Cripps “slave in love” picture that Roderick Burgess had, which also shows up again.
Dee enters the Dreaming dressed as Caesar and speaks of a dream in which he raped his mother (this is apparently from Plutarch) – his ‘mother’ responds that she should have strangled Dee at birth.
The Charlie Manson lookalike holding the decapitated dog’s head wears a “Norman Lives” button. Later, after Dee’s seeming victory, he mentions that people “die when you still need them”. Are we getting a clear picture of John Dee’s probable relationship with his mom just yet?
Given these clues about Dee’s feelings toward Ethel, and the “Hamlet” references, and the fact that Dream can in some way be considered John Dee’s “father”, whom Dee is attempting to kill – well, the whole issue becomes more than a bit Oedipal, doesn’t it?
When I googled “Genessee Hotel” I found this.
A couple of instances of the kind of wordplay/free-association beloved of writers and dreamers alike: “Coward/custard/mustard/bastard” and “Beware the ideas of March / Beware the march of ideas / Beware the brides of Frankenstein”.
Dee sings a snatch of “Death Takes a Holiday” – a callback to Roderick Burgess’ intent back in issue #1?
First sighting of Destiny. I also like the brief shot of Cain, Abel and the gargoyles hiding while the battle rages, because where else would nightmare creatures hide when things get hairy, but under the bed?
In the end, after brief consideration, Dream is merciful to Dee. Whether this is due to gratitude for Dee returning Dream’s power to him (albeit inadvertently), or sympathy for the damage the ruby caused Dee, or empathy for Dee the prisoner, or Morpheus just listened to Dee’s monologue and was moved – it’s an interesting choice. Going back to the idea of “Dream as Dee’s notional father”, perhaps now that Dee’s tantrum (“Watch me!”) is spent and he has gotten his “father’s” attention, all is again right with the world. Note how childlike Dee is, at the issue’s conclusion.
Upon his return from the Dreaming to Arkham, Dee (“D is for lots of things.”) tells Scarecrow(!) “There’s no place like home.”
Again returning to the ‘Endless as godlike beings’ theme; like gods they appear somewhat capricious from our perspective – we desire to see the guilty punished. But sometimes the evil man not only escapes punishment, he may be shown mercy or even blessing – so Dee and Arkham get a good night’s sleep; maybe the only one they ever get.
So… what did you think?