Thursday 2 June 2016

The View from the Cheap Seats - An Evening with Neil Gaiman

Until now, Neil Gaiman has been best known as a fiction writer, giving us delights like Neverwhere and American Gods and is the creative force behind the equally amazing and disturbing Sandman series of graphic novels.

I first came across him in the collaboration with Terry Pratchett that is Good Omens. When I first read it I hated it as it wasn’t Pratchett enough for me. The second time I came across him was when the book group was reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This melancholy story is an adult fairy tale as a man relives the moments of his childhood with the strange happenings that went on. It blew me away.

Since then I have read lots of his books; lots and lots. I like the twists he adds to classic fairy tales, his children’s books enthral and scare at the same time. Best of all he has an imagination that literally knows no bounds. His latest book, The View from the Cheap Seats is his first foray into non-fiction. It was to be launched in London with an evening with him and the author Audrey Niffenegger.

And I had a ticket.

The evening started with him bringing his son, Ash, out onto the stage to see everyone. Then Amanda Palmer, his wife, sung one song with her father, before he re-appeared on the stage for the main event. Niffenegger begun by asking how the book came into being. He described how he sent every single piece of writing off to a friend, Kat Howard, who chose the best and suggested the order it should go in; naturally he disagreed on the order, but it gave an initial shape to the book. He reads his own audiobooks and it was a poignant moment when he was telling us just how hard it was to read the introduction that he wrote for a Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett. The audience and those following on Twitter were allowed to ask questions and he told us that even if he has a plan for the characters, he doesn’t always know where they will go. His razor sharp wit and subtle humour meant that the discussion was often accompanied by a fair amount of laughter. He read twice from the book; his distinct, clear voice talking about what he believes and what he thinks.

He says in the first line of the book that he never went into journalism because he wanted the freedom to tell the truth without ever having to worry about the facts. But inevitably as a writer he ended up writing non-fiction as he was commissioned to write essays and obituaries, introductions and speeches. This book has drawn the finest of those together in one place, and it was great to hear him talk about it in person.

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