The whorls of stars that spiral out from a galaxy’s core when you look up at the sky on a perfectly clear night (in a place without light pollution, of course) can be a study in symmetry as well as complexity. Recreating that indoors for children in planetariums—like the mobile ones trundling into remoter parts of the country that we have a report on this week—can elicit the sense of wonder that comes from just looking up. And often, beautifully written stories and books do the same—introduce complexity with ease and get us to imagine things we never thought possible.
It’s what Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has done since the first issue in 1988. Through the often dark adventures of the central character, Dream, as he went about his business of inspiring every creature in the universe, Gaiman opened up to us “the insurrectionist possibilities of the imagination”, as one of our big stories this week points out. On the nightmare end of things, that’s also why poets, writers and storytellers are sometimes incarcerated or persecuted, even if they seem too ill and infirm to really be a threat—for their words can fire up the imagination. 2020 has been a big year for Gaiman—he turned 60, and three decades on from the serialisation of The Sandman, it has been turned into an audio book and is being adapted for streaming.
Writers who delight in their stories, whether make-believe or real, make for good reading—like Ramachandra Guha, writer and historian, who tells Lounge that he has now probably written his last book on cricket, a game he has followed as player, super fan, essayist, chronicler and, for a very short period, administrator. His new book, The Commonwealth Of Cricket, out this week, is the “culmination of Guha’s lifelong obsession with the game”, a reflection on the sport as it was played and what it has descended to, while retaining its place in the imagination of most Indians. It’s in the spaces between these worlds of reality and possibility that writers create spaces of escape for the rest of us.
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