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I Got to See Neil Gaiman; Or, The Day I Almost Became a Mermaid

July 11, 2013

Yesterday I took my first off day in 32 days (in case you were wondering where I’ve been).  Instead of staying home and resting like a normal person I drove to Nashville to see Neil Gaiman.  He’s this guy.  You may have heard of him.  He’s written some stuff.
good omensI first read Neil back in the days of yore when I read a copy of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.  This book probably also started my lifelong love affair with incredibly long titles.  My mother gave me a hardcover copy of Good Omens when I was 11 or so.  This was a big deal in our house.  We couldn’t afford hardcover books very often.  I’m not sure what it was about this particular book that made her pick it up, but I loved it.  I’ve read it probably once a year since I got it.  However, to say that I discovered Neil at that time would be to imply that I didn’t lose him again immediately.  Which I did.  I read Good Omens and thought it was brilliant and then didn’t read anything else by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett.  I think I was going through my Arthurian phase around then so I probably wandered off to read Mists of Avalon or Witch of the North.   Jump forward to college.  I found friends.  Yay!  They handed me Sandman.  I read it and was amazed.  That was whenocean I really discovered Neil Gaiman.  I then read lots and lots and lots of things by him.  Neil actually came to Tuscaloosa while I was living there, but the tickets sold out before I could refresh my browser, so I didn’t get to go see him.  But finally, yesterday, my moment arrived!
It was pretty great.  I drove to Nashville early and wandered around the Tennessee State Museum to enjoy some air conditioning before I took my place in line.  I was far from the first person there, but I think I was in the first 15 or so.  It felt like DragonCon!  Geeks standing or sitting in the southern heat and sweating together.  The book tables opened at 3:00 so we could pick up our copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane from Parnassus Books.  They did a great job with the event!  There’s no really good way to keep 1,700 sweaty fans completely happy, but they got the doors open on time, seating was easy, and they even figured out a way to make sure people at the back of the line weren’t screwed when it came time to get their books signed.
Sadly, I didn’t get to stay for the signing itself.  More on that later…

So, Neil Gaiman.  He’s as adorable as I’d hoped and twice as British.  He was charming.  He was sweet.  He read us a special part of his book because it was storming!  There’s a bit around the middle of the book with a thunder-storm in.  And, as it just so happened, we were having an actual thunder-storm as the reading was going on.  So, we got to hear that bit.  He did a Q&A session after the first reading and that was lovely too.  He told us about his writing ritual.  Neil writes his stories out longhand in notebooks.  He uses a different color of ink every day so that when he looks back through his notebooks he can see how much he got done each day.  He also uses a fountain pen, which makes me very happy.  I’ve not become a total convert to the fountain pen, but I do love my Pelikano Jr.  (Yes, I use a large, friendly, plastic fountain pen intended for children.  It’s very reliable and when I eventually break or lose it the replacement cost won’t make me cry.)
milkThen, we got another reading!  Neil read from his forthcoming book Fortunately, the Milk which will be out in September from Bloomsbury.  It’s technically middle grade, only not really because he put in jokes for the grown ups too.  It’s everything whimsical that I thought House of Secrets was going to be, but wasn’t.  A father goes out to the corner store to get his children some milk for their breakfast cereal.  And for his tea.  And that’s where things go terribly, terribly wrong.  First there’s… and then… oh, and after that!  And the piranhas!  But, fortunately, the milk is safe in his pocket through aliens, and letting the space/time continuum in, and pirates, and…Neil was accompanied during this reading by Bela Fleck on banjo.   Neil and Bela became friends over the audio for The Graveyard Book wherein Bela performs Danse Macabre on banjo.  I have to say, it’s pretty epic.  The reading finished up and Neil took a short break before he set out to sign all the books brought by approximately 1,700 fans.

Sadly, I had to leave at this point because I had to be at work at 8:00 this morning.  That’s where the mermaid thing comes in.  Let me explain it to you by quoting a letter I wrote to a friend earlier today…

I have decided that Mother Nature must have wanted me to become a mermaid.  Based on the amount of water she dumped on me I can only assume she was attempting to persuade me to embrace the life aquatic.  You see, there was a storm during the reading.  But it had moved on by the time I left.  I innocently got onto the highway and headed south.  Twenty miles outside of Nashville the skies opened and a quantity of water rivaling the volume of one of your smaller seas began to bucket down onto my helpless car.  I made friends with the nearest set of tail lights and together we crept through the tempest.  This state continued for about sixty miles.  By chance the storm stayed in Tennessee while I crossed back into Alabama and dry land.  I suspect that had I not had the protection of eco-friendly, Japanese engineering I would even now be sporting fins and gills in some little known Tennessean waterway.  Alabama, however, liking me as a walking, talking, tax-paying citizen, provided me with dry land upon which to return home.

There were mermaids in Fortunately, the Milk.  Sort of.  A new kind of mermaid  With legs!  Maybe that’s what I am.  I’ve almost got mermaid hair as it is!
So, no book review today, but I’ll have a review of Parasite by Mira Grant out this weekend.  Spoiler warning: I loved it.

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