Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today’s Word: quiddity

quiddity: Something's essence — it's whatness. Also the name of the mythic living sea in Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show and Everville. "No matter how many sitcoms and low-budget movies he's cast in, Billy Ray Cyrus's quiddity is not acting."

Maybe it's because I saw it in The Great and Secret Show long before I learned that it was a "real" word, but quiddity has a unique calming effect on me that no other word has. I just love to say it. "Quiddity."

The Great and Secret Show really hooked me on Clive Barker way back in the early '90s. I've always been a serial monogamist when it comes to books, so I went on to read (in no order) Imajica, Sacrament, Galilee, Coldheart Canyon, Cabal, and Everville. I remember one gaffe in Galilee that disturbed me and gave me pause. It was a simple grammatical error, but it was made by a character who had devoted his centuries-long life to recording the history of his family. That is, he had devoted his life to writing, and writing well, and made a simple grammatical error. It didn't match up.

Coldheart Canyon was the last one I read, and it left me with a cold heart (ba-dum bum). Aside from an arousing, surreal, supernatural sex scene, it simply wasn't a good book. Barker was on his way down, in my eyes. I think he's come out with a few books since then, but I'm just not interested.

I don't remember when it was, but my first exposure to Neil Gaiman was Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett. I loved this book. I tried other Terry Pratchett books, but they weren't for me. But I did like Neil Gaiman's stuff, and he's only gotten better, and now he's one of my favorite authors. With American Gods, the Sandman comics, big-screen movies, small-screen miniseries (Neverwhere), the death of Batman, and numerous awards, Neil Gaiman is what Clive Barker could have been. Neil Gaiman's quiddity is storytelling, and he's a master.