I’ve been to a number of readings over the years, probably a half-dozen or so, and this one will definitely rate as one of, if not the best I’ve been to. Neil Gaiman is such a fantastic storyteller, and really knows how to do these things. We all go to readings to hear the writer’s voice, to watch him tell us stories. And he really delivered. From his opening introduction of “what the plan is, and there is a plan”, all the way through to explaining why he would not pose for photos, he was expansive, wry and engaging.
I suspect that he was funnier this time than he may have been other times because the book he’s promoting is a funny book. Rockstar/consumate professional that he is, I suspect his readings would always match the tone of what he was promoting. Although, despite it all, he will always look the same – shaggy hair, black, slightly-too-tight jeans, a black t-shirt (this one a CBGB’s shirt), and leather jacket. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a photo of him, at any time over the last 10-odd years, where he was wearing, or looking at all different. But we don’t like our writers for their style of dress.
The audience was far more interesting. It was a demographic made up of special and unique snowflakes. All these kids, growing up slightly on the outside, loving Sandman, are now, of course, all in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s. And still don’t want to quite fit it. But put together 200 (I’m guessing) people who all don’t want to quite fit in with mainstream, and you arrive at a strange new normal – a bucket of snowflakes if you will, whever everyone’s difference blends together in the end.
Like all readings, there was a book-signing at the end. Neil was very organized in how he did this, and had an assistant come around before we got to him to get the name, spell it correctly and stick it on a yellow sticky note for him to transcribe. For his new book, he would only sign on one particular page, which might well be the writer’s equivalent of a rider (only red M&M’s! and I’ll only sign the 3rd page after the dedication!) (is that a rider? Or am I confusing terms? I feel I may well be confusing terms here). I was torn, at the signing part, whether or not to buy his new book. But, in what is probably a precedent-setting ruling, I instead bought The Wolves in the Walls, a children’s book by himself and Dave McKean, and had him sign it for Liam.
I was equivocating before the reading about whether or not I really wanted to go, but I am so glad that I decided in the end to do so.