An Evening with Neil Gaiman

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I’m always unsure if I want to hear one of my favorite authors speak. What if they aren’t as I imagined them? What if they fall flat? What if they’re awful and all my dreams are dashed forever and I can’t ever enjoy their writing again? What if I end up hugging a pile of their books in my home while curled up crying in a ball of pain and disillusionment?

I have been unpleasantly startled by less than thrilling presentations from great authors or odd voices. Have you ever pictured an author’s voice in your head for years – then met them and your mind is immediately blown? It’s not their fault, but sometimes you just have a voice in your head. It’s been there, keeping you company every time you cracked open their books, you heard it telling their story. It’s horrible to have that change and never be able to read their books in quite the same way again. It’s like seeing the movie rendition of a book you love, you’ll never be able to go back to how the characters looked in your head before you watched that damn thing.

But there have also been amazing authors whose appearances have only increased my admiration of them. I was lucky enough to hear one of them speak last night.

I am an ardent admirer of Neil Gaiman, he is one of my all time favorite authors. I have shoved his books into many a hand in bookstores, whether I knew the person previously or not. I’ve put them in stockings yearly and given them as random gifts for no other reason than I really want someone to experience them. They’ve shown up on the desks of co-workers, who I then pester with various renditions of “have you read it? did you love it?” until they actually do read it. Thankfully, they always end up enjoying the books so my slightly annoying dedication to making their life hell until they finally read the wonderful book I’ve purchased for them is inevitably forgiven.

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Last night Gaiman spoke at a special charity event here in Ogden. The event’s organizers went all out in honor of The Graveyard Book. Shadows of trees projected on the walls, a cemetery, a homey set on stage to instill the feeling that you’re sitting in a crumbling mansion next to a fireplace in the dark of the night. Though it felt like forever until he took the stage (I was impatient and hid it badly) once he was up there, he was everything I had hoped.

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He read a couple short stories, talked about how he became an author and spoke about how important it is to help our future generations be literate. Listening to Neil Gaiman is exactly like being inside one of his books. His voice is the one you hear in your head, describing the Other Mother or the little boy flitting from grave to grave in the fog. He was descriptive and engaging, keeping the room amused and silently spellbound by turns.

If you haven’t read his books, I can only hope you will after today. Gaiman’s stories are darkly, magically, beautiful. He creates characters and worlds that come alive, burrowing into your imagination to stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Though I have loved every book – short, long, for children or adults – that he has written, Neverwhere holds a special place in my heart. If I ever get to visit London, I know I’ll be trying to fall through the cracks, hoping for a chance to cross the Knightsbridge and survive a visit to the Earl’s Court to Islington. It’s one of those stories that makes you yearn, with all your book loving soul, that the places and people could actually exist.

Even the dangerous, terrifying ones. Even the ones that make you leave all your lights on when you go to bed.

If you were a child that climbed into wardrobes to find Narnia, I know you’ll love Gaiman’s books as much as I do.  You’ll spend the rest of your adult life hoping, praying, wishing that somehow, somewhere…  Gaiman’s worlds are actually there, just waiting for us to find them.

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Unnatural Creatures selected by Neil Gaiman

A black spot appears on your tablecloth. When you look again, it’s gone. Now it’s on your wall. You blink. It’s on your ceiling. With each new appearance, it grows. It swells. It becomes a large, hideous, dark presence in your home. And then you learn – it’s hungry.

“Unnatural Creatures” is a collection of stories selected by Neil Gaiman. I picked it up while I was visiting Portland, Ore., to see a friend. Elbowing my way through the crowds at Powell’s Books to find a new read, I stumbled upon it in the staff-recommended section.

Since I was only allowing myself to buy one book (such willpower) I decided anything selected by Gaiman was worth checking out.

These fantasy stories feature dark and mystical creatures ranging from hungry black spots to professor werewolves.

In “Ozioma the Wicked” a young girl is an outcast when her town learns that she can speak to snakes. Then one day, something lowers itself down from the sky and threatens everything they hold dear. Only Ozioma can help them.

“Moveable Beast” is an adventure in which a Beast collector arrives at the Bastardville Dreamy Creamy, an ice cream store in a town that prides itself on being miserable. He comes to collect their beast, but little does he know what that beast truly is.

Larry Niven’s “The Flight of The Horse” is about a man who travels back in time to find curiosities for the modern royal family. He goes on a quest further back in history than ever before to find a horse but finds something quite startling instead.

In one of my favorite pieces of the collection, a young girl named Matilda gets off the omnibus one day at an unexpected destination. In this village, the princesses’ pet cockatoucan transforms aspects of the village with its magic laughter.

The king becomes a butcher; the prime minister becomes a child. It makes Sundays come together and Thursdays get lost. It changes time, people and places to make their village a topsy-turvy mess.

Though Matilda normally wouldn’t be able to tackle such a complicated problem, the cockatoucan accidently makes her clever. And she concocts a plan to set the village to rights.

Each piece in “Unnatural Creatures” is different and delightful. Whether the authors are writing about griffins or bicycles, the characters are unique, and the stories are imaginative.

Gaiman has assembled a charming collection of whimsical romps – whether they are dark, sweet or deadly – that any reader will enjoy.

Sherlock Holmes to 1984, October Releases

Its October! One of things that makes me excited about October is that various books I am waiting for are being released next week. October 25th, 2011. I don’t know what it is about that date, but I have three books I am waiting for eagerly that are all being released on the 25th.

  A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canon. Edited by Laurie King, Stories contributed by Neil Gaiman, Alan Bradley, and Lee Child

Firstly, I love Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. If you haven’t read them, you definitely should, immediately. Start with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I guarantee you’ll love. Mary Russell is the female version of Sherlock Holmes, helping him solve his mysteries and generally, kicking butt. She is the heroine of that series. I am excited about this book not just because it is edited (and I’m sure, inspired) by Laurie King’s work, but because fabulous (and two of my favorite) authors Neil Gaiman and Alan Bradley are part of it. I don’t think I could be more excited about a book coming out!

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

I loved Pierce’s books when I was a youngin’ growing up and now that I’m (theoretically) grown up, I still love them and follow her work. I read the Beka Cooper series when it started and I am impatiently awaiting this new installment with much excitement! If you haven’t read her books, this is another author you really must experience. Start with her Alanna series!

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Last but not least, 1Q84, the great Murakami’s rendition of 1984 is coming out next week as well. So. Many. Books. Murakami is an amazing author and I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. I’m so thrilled it is finally being released.

Really, I’m not sure which book I’ll read first. I’m sure there are lots of other releases this month as well so feel free to let me know about them. Hurrah for October!