I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan since I first picked up a battered copy of Stardust for twenty five cents at a garage sale in 2001. I read it over and over again for years before I met anyone who had ever heard of him. I didn’t even think to look for any other books by him, although I’m not sure why. Maybe I thought that since no one knew about Mister Gaiman, the rest of his books couldn’t be any good. This idea really doesn’t stand up because I knew from the first magical sentence that Stardust was brilliant. Honestly, I think I imagined that the book was written a long time ago, and that I had the last remaining copy. My love for that book was so personal that it became difficult to imagine anyone else reading it.
Of course that’s ridiculous and I eventually met a wonderful girl who came to be my best friend and she had read all of Mister Gaiman’s books. She loaned me one, (I think it was Anansi Boys) and I devoured it. I read American Gods and Fragile Things and Good Omens. Then I took a break to try out Terry Pratchett and read The Colour of Magic. That was a mistake.
I read Neverwhere and watched the television show series. I read Coraline and Smoke and Mirrors and The Graveyard Book. Every book of his that I could find. I watched the video version of The Blueberry Girl, and found myself beautifully inspired by the gentle poem read in Neil’s encouaging voice. Brilliant.
And then last year he and his lovely wife Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls, a personal obsession in high school) came to Portland on their tour, An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I didn’t find out about the show until a week or so before-hand, but I managed to score tickets from a nice girl on craigslist. It was a magical evening.
He strode onstage with wild black hair, looking not just a little like Professor Snape. He was funny and charming from the start. Ms. Palmer and Mister Gaiman alternated, with he reading a couple of stories or poems and then Ms. Palmer singing a song or two. The stage was arranged like a living room; a tumble of instruments around plush armchairs and mannequins and microphones adorned with bicycle gears. As one of them performed, the other sat and watched adoringly. The love between these two was apparent and equal parts heartwarming and disgusting. Seriously, just look at this guy’s face.
Nothing proved this more than Neil’s willingness to sing with Ms. Palmer. Now, I adore this man and hold his work in high esteem. But he cannot sing. Not a bit. But that didn’t even matter because he belted it out, head held high, eyes glowing with love as Amanda plucked away on her ukulele. It was terrible and beautiful and I felt honored to be a part of it.
That tour was perfect for a fan like me because of all of Mister Gaiman’s magnificent works, I love the short stories and poems best. His short stories crash over you like a bucket of ice water, immersing you briefly but intensely in a world that is more real than your own. Not only that but in the print version of the short story books (at least Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things), the front of the book is dedicated to a brief description of how and why each piece within the book was written. It feels, like the evening I spent “with” the dear Mister Gaiman, personal. Intimate. Neil Gaiman is a man with a mad, magical mind, and it thrills me that he invites us in at every opportunity.
This post exists because Neil Gaiman has written a new book. It comes out in June of this year and is titled The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I cannot wait. I am so impatient that despite what I had hoped, writing this has made me feel worse instead of better. But thank you for listening just the same.