Influence: “A Game of You”
After moving to Kansas City in 1998, I was re-introduced to Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series and began devouring the books as quickly as I could. Â Which in the case of a series like The Sandman is neither fast nor a chore. Â There’s always more to uncover behind the wonderful illustrations, mythologies and wonder these stories achieve. Â After eventually collecting the full ten volumes in hardcover, I started inviting my friends to dive in and enjoy the series to a very consistent pattern: initial excitement and then abandonment.
Over the years I’ve come to understand why. Â The first volume, “Preludes and Nocturnes” just isn’t very good. Â It’s not terrible or a mistake to read, but as a first impression it stumbles as you might expect as Gaiman found his voice and mastered it. Â By the time we get to volume 5: “A Game of You,” every page becomes a masterpiece. Â There’s no hit-or-miss collection of stories here. Â It’s mesmerizing from page one and lingers long after you put it down. Â Long after the third reading. Â Long after the tenth…
In 2001 I released a song with the title “A Game of You” that is loosely based on the story, specifically what the title itself references. Â In the story, the “game of you” is all about who you are in terms of the third person. Â I am a son. Â I am a father. Â I am a husband, a brother and a friend. Â These questions are asked by the moon. Â Most of the lyrics were improvised at a live performance when the riff I was playing to sound-check my guitar turned into a full-band jam session. Â I had been reading the novel and worked the title into my improvised chorus: “The game of you… every day, why must I play the game of you?”
Today AV Club published an article about the graphic novel that got me thinking back to what a powerful story is represented in that collection.
“Of all the female stories,Â A Game Of YouÂ just might be the most feminine, with a central cast composed of four women (including a lesbian couple) and a female impersonator. Throw in Barbie as the main character, a princess fantasy, and a pregnancy subplot, and this volume is just bursting with estrogen.” — AV ClubÂ The fifth collection of The Sandman uses Barbie to play with identity
To put it mildly, I’ve been making a mistake all these years handing people “Preludes and Nocturnes” as a hook into the series. Â “A Game of You” is the one everyone should read, and if it doesn’t propel you toward reading more then nothing will.
I don’t think the AV Club’s article will ruin the experience for you if you want to read it before the graphic novel itself. Â It’s more likely that it will whet your appetite to pick up a copy. Â My song appears as track 2 on the 2001 album Midnight Street, which you can download for free.