Things I learned about Neil Gaiman at tonight’s book-signing:
- He is very funny in person, with a dry, British, often self-deprecating wit, for instance, answering a question about why he doesn’t do sequels: “People assume that I have a principled stand against doing sequels, when actually I’m just rubbish at it.”
- He can be funny about literally anything, witness his report of a conversation with Terry Pratchett:
- He is a brilliant mimic, at different times being William Shatner, Terry Pratchett, Shirley MacLaine, a drunken American, and various characters from his books.
- Gaiman is pronounced like “Gay man”, not “Guy man”. Bookers pronouncing it the wrong have several times confused audiences expecting the singer known for Sweet Caroline.
- He is a good sport, being willing to spend literally hours signing books for upwards of 500 people. But there are limits, as this will be his last book-signing tour.
- In some ways he is exactly who I thought, as his answer to “What did you read when you were young?” was “Everything.”
Terry is writing his memoirs. He called me recently to ask whether, that time we walked down the street at 2 AM singing They Might Be Giants it was 43rd or 47th Street. I responded “You’ve got Alzheimers! You’re supposed to call me up and ask who I am!”
In addition to answering questions submitted on 3×5 cards (much like Whose Line, except more consistently funny), Gaiman read from two of his books: the recently published The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the forthcoming Fortunately, the Milk. Ocean is a fantasy about a childhood complete with friendly neighbors who appear to be witches (one brags that her homemade cheese was a great hit at the court of Henry II), while Milk is the story of a father who, denying that he was home late from the corner store because he was gabbing with a neighbor, explains that he was beamed aboard a UFO, escaped only to be captured by pirates, and then to be rescued by a stegosaurus piloting a hot-air balloon. He read only briefly from this one, so I expect there’s much more to the story.