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.  Which in the case of a series like The Sandman is neither fast nor a chore.  There’s always more to uncover behind the wonderful illustrations, mythologies and wonder these stories achieve.  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.  The first volume, “Preludes and Nocturnes” just isn’t very good.  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.  By the time we get to volume 5: “A Game of You,” every page becomes a masterpiece.  There’s no hit-or-miss collection of stories here.  It’s mesmerizing from page one and lingers long after you put it down.  Long after the third reading.  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.  In the story, the “game of you” is all about who you are in terms of the third person.  I am a son.  I am a father.  I am a husband, a brother and a friend.  These questions are asked by the moon.  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.  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, A Game Of You 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 Club 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.  “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.  It’s more likely that it will whet your appetite to pick up a copy.  My song appears as track 2 on the 2001 album Midnight Street, which you can download for free.


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