An Evening with Neil Gaiman

So, when I heard that Neil Gaiman was doing his last book tour ever for his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I decided that this was a must-see event. I’ve never had a chance to go to a Neil Gaiman talk before and I didn’t want to miss this event so I spared no expense when I heard that he was going to be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
I went with my roommate/best friend after work and we decided that we needed feeding before the event. Thank goodness we decided to eat because the lines to get work signed by Neil are intense.
We stopped at Habana Outpost on Lafayette Street. It’s a cute, quirky little joint. You order inside and then pick up your food at the red truck in back. The back courtyard is full of colorful tents, the kind you see at parties, with picnic tables underneath. Thank goodness, because it was misting and drizzling all afternoon. It was a delicious, if pricey, quesadilla. Definitely worth it. Plus, the kid’s corner has a kick-ass Batman ride.
Then it was on to the Peter Jay Sharp Building. It’s a beautiful space. We claimed our books that were included in the ticket price and were given a complimentary Evelyn Evelyn c.d. (Amanda Palmer’s side project.) Nice, free music, I thought, but I was wondering if Amanda Palmer, Neil’s wife, was going to be there. I used to listen to The Dresden Dolls quite a bit but had grown out of them and have very ambivalent feelings about Amanda ever since her Kickstarter controversy. Peter Aguero of “The Moth” emceed the event. He told of his time touring with Neil and threatened to eat any cell phone that went off. Hilariously, about ten minutes into Neil’s talk, the phone of the douche-canoe sitting next to me went off. The worst part is that it sounded like Coldplay.
Neil discussed the genesis of his book and I could relate to that quite a bit. I haven’t finished it yet but I’ve been describing it as a book about the things we know as a child but forget as an adult. It’s deeply creepy and reminds me of the scary stories I read under the covers as a child where no one is exactly as they seem and your house is slightly sinister.
Then Neil read to us from chapter two. I closed my eyes and just drank in the story. He has a lovely voice and it’s not just the accent. It reminded me of being small and asking people to tell me stories. Only Neil’s was the right amount of creepy. No story that anyone ever told me was scary enough.
Neil left the stage briefly to take a break and…Amanda Palmer came on and played a new song that she wrote. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t really what I paid for. It was like ordering a mocha and getting a macchiato. You like macchiatos but it wasn’t what you really wanted. The song was good but felt too long. I wanted to see Neil, dammit! That being said, I’d forgotten how much I liked her voice and I loved her dress. I may not always agree with Amanda Palmer but I can’t deny her skill.
Neil came back and now it was Q&A time. My roommate and I weren’t asked but I guess people were randomly given cards to write questions on. Amanda chose the questions and Neil would answer. I had to grudgingly admit that she was funny and seemed to care about him and his comfort a lot. They also had excellent chemistry. They were funny and cute and I found my icy black heart cracking. The questions weren’t great but it was interesting to hear about Neil’s childhood influences on the book. It’s not autobiographical but he said it’s heavily influenced by his childhood. He talked about having too much imagination and how as a child he’d be laying in bed and see the shadow of his dressing gown and know it was just a shadow but how it was also someone there who was going to murder him. I did the same thing as a child and I do the same thing now. I genuinely thought I was the only one. That was very interesting and I wish more of the talk had been focused on that and his creative process.
Then he read some more from the book. Finally, it was time for the signing. The kick ass seats that we bought for the talk were great…until it came time to queue up for the signing. I think there were something like 1,200 people there and the line stretched around the block. We were towards the end of the line. Happily, the rain had ended. It was painful waiting but it was cool hanging out with so many fans of his work. I enjoyed people-watching and observing the building. I noticed the swastika-and-honeycomb motif.
Also, these creepy Dr. Who cherubs around the door-jamb.
The line moved forward slowly. I was very nervous and excited because I’d bought a Foomi, a blank customizable vinyl figurine made by Kid Robot. I’d made mine to look like the Sandman and I planned to give it to Neil as a token of thanks.
Here are some more pictures I took of baby Sandman in my office at work.
We’d queued up around 8:30 p.m. and by the time we met Neil it was after 11. I felt so bad for him. I follow him on Twitter and I knew that on Monday he’d been in the U.K. and he must have been fighting some killer jet-lag. We were allowed to take pics so here’s an iPhone pic that I tried to unblurry.
By this point I was psyching myself out of giving Neil the Sandman. “He’s not going to want it,” I said to my bestie. “It’s just going to go in his box of shit that sad fangirls gave him. No one else is giving him anything!” “So what if it does?” she said. “It’ll be yours. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Can I just add that my bestie is the most amazing motivator ever? When I show her artwork and she says it’s good I know that it’s really good. When she looks at me and says it’s not there and tells me what’s wrong, I know it’s not malice and that it’s the truth. Thanks to my bestie! So, while we were getting our books open to the right page with our names spelled out on Post-Its, two women from the Greenlight Bookstore saw the figure I was holding and complimented me on it. They asked me where I got it and I told them I made it and they seemed deeply impressed. So Neil started signing and my heart was basically in my throat and I mumbled in my too-soft voice that I made him something. He looked up and I fumbled the Sandman onto the table. He smiled and said, “You really did make that yourself!” He picked it up and examined it and said thank you and that it was adorable. He looked me in the face and shook my hand. I didn’t hold my hand out, he offered his to me and that meant a lot. He told me he was going to draw me a big ghost and I thanked him. He looked tired but happy. I left with my roommate and started hyperventilating as soon as I left the building. I was doing this horrible gasp-laughing thing all the way to the deli where we loaded up on high-fructose drinks and candy. I will always, always remember his incredible kindness and graciousness. I don’t know if he genuinely liked it or not. I’m sure he has a metric fuck-ton of handmade Sandman shit but now he has mine. It’s incredible when you meet someone who you admire and they’re kinder than you expect.
I had to work today so I’ve been stealing time to read the book–“I accidentally wrote a novel,” he said–and the feeling I get while reading it reminds me of the feeling I got when reading a new Harry Potter book. Not just that this book is going to be important but I don’t want to be apart from it. I’m loving the book so far. It’s only 178 pages–I’ll admit that I was disappointed at first by the size–but he packs a big punch into such a brief space. I think the thing I love the most, that I love about a lot of Neil’s work, is the honest way he writes about how sinister childhood can feel. That’s why I include him as a horror author because what’s more horrifying than being a child? Especially if you’re a child that doesn’t fit in or is alone. When you’re small, the world is a big place and the grownups in your life do things that are sometimes scary and you don’t understand why. There are shadows and dark, hidden places in your house and you’re not old enough to know that there’s really nothing there. If you like remembering that feeling then you’ll love The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
And seriously, I doubt he’ll read this (My blog gets literally dozens upon dozens of hits), but thank you, Neil Gaiman, for your kindness, your time, and your stories.

About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in art, books, terrible toys, things involving me and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to An Evening with Neil Gaiman

  1. Fear Street says:

    That is so awesome :)

    I love your Sandman, I love Neil Gaiman, I love this post.

  2. Crypticpsych says:

    That feeling you had before, during, and after? It’s a good feeling. Don’t lose it. I’ve started getting disillusioned with conventions due to their focus on Walking Dead, True Blood, and Being Human over actual films (or…to me anyway…good shows like Hannibal or American Horror Story). I still cherish my good memories of signings and such including the one most similar to yours when I met one of my personal idols, Alton Brown, a couple years ago near Union Square after he did a great Q&A. From following Mr. Gaiman on twitter he seems like a genuinely awesome guy and I’m glad the signing bore that out.

    • scarina says:

      It was such an amazing event. Although I was hyperventilating quite a bit afterwards. Neil Gaiman has an admirable devotion to his fans. I’ve seen the pictures of tables of books that he’s signed & I can’t believe how he does them all. He was kind to everyone & gave them all a bit of his time.
      Alton Brown is cool!
      I’ve still never been to a convention but need to go. Even if I don’t like it I still want to go.

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