Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Books

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 14th Neil Gaiman was the featured speaker at the annual Reading Agency Lecture in London, England.  The forum is

as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries as we explore how to create a reading culture in a radically changed 21st century landscape. [readingagency.org.uk]

As a writer, reader and lover of libraries and all things books (paper, audio, electronic and otherwise) I found myself tearing up and cheering at the screen as I listened to the roughly 26 minute lecture on You Tube. [You can find it on the Reading Agency link, above and in the You Tube link,  below]  And since you read my blog, which is so often about writing and authors (and Gaiman), I thought I’d share some highlights with you for today’s Thought of the Day.

Neil Gaiman (2005)

Neil Gaiman (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaiman admits his bias at the beginning of the talk. He wants libraries to thrive and he wants kids to learn the love of reading. Specifically he’d like to encourage kids to read fiction, because, he says “Its the gateway  drug to reading.”

It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur…So I’m biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen. [Gaiman’s speech as reprinted in The Guardian.com]

But what he says goes for this side of the pond too. (And elsewhere, I dare say.) To have a thriving society one must have a reading society and that starts early, by teaching our children to read and showing “them that reading is a pleasurable activity.” [Ibid] Finding books they’ll want to read and not being judgemental  about their choices.

Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you…Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant. [Ibid]

Fiction is the first rung on the ladder of literacy. It also builds Empathy.

Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed. [Ibid]

It can change how you view the world and show you new worlds whole cloth. And “Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in.” [Ibid] You’ll want to change it for the better. You’ll BELIEVE it can be better.

English: The main reading romm of Graz Univers...

English: The main reading romm of Graz University Library (19th century) on 2 Sep 2003. Picture taken and uploaded by Dr. Marcus Gossler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaiman talks about the need for libraries. Libraries, he says, are about freedom.

  • Freedom to read
  • Freedom of ideas
  • Freedom of communication
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • and INFORMATION

He worries that people “Misunderstand libraries” nowadays. Perhaps they think the institutions are  “antiquated or outdated”

If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. …Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything… Librarians can help these people navigate that world.[Ibid]

A library is a people’s place, a safe haven where anyone can come to find information, gather for a meeting, and, yes, READ — something Gaiman thinks people will continue to do with actual paper books (along with their audio and electronic counterparts).

…as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me…  a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. [Ibid]

He closed his talk by quoting Albert Einstein. When Einstein …

was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. [Ibid]

Here’s the You Tube video so you can hear Gaiman in his own words….

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Secondary Character Saturday: Lettie Hempstock, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

If only the "He" had held onto Lettie's hand a little bit more firmly...

If only the “He” had held onto Lettie’s hand a little bit more firmly…

WHO: Lettie Hempstock

FROM: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Cover art for The Ocean at the End of the Lane [Image courtesy NPR]

Cover art for The Ocean at the End of the Lane [Image courtesy NPR]

BY: Neil Gaiman

PUBLISHED: June 18, 2013

PROS: Kind, powerful, brave, compassionate, mysterious, plucky…

CONS: Not quite cautious enough when it comes to flapping burlapy evil creatures

MOST SHINING MOMENT: I wont give away her MOST shining moment. But I will tell you her second to the MOST shining moment… which is when she stands up the big flapping burlapy evily creature and demands that it/she leave the Hempstock farm.

WHY I CHOSE LETTIE: A beautifully written female adolescent heroine… how could I not choose her? Lettie is marvelously kind to the unnamed main character in this book, but she’s never syrupy about it. She protects and cares for him (much better than his family does) and he has the gumption and pluck of many other female teen characters I can think of (*cough* Bella Swan). “The struggle between Lettie’s family and this evil force takes on darkly beautiful, dreamlike proportions.” [NPR.org]

Gaiman has written another wonderful book. This one is catalogued as adult, but it lies somewhere in the dreamy zone between growing up and grown up. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a relatively quick read (compared to American Gods or Anansi Boys and, perhaps because its protagonist is a child, it reminded me of his brilliant and haunting children’s book Coraline. Please add this to your to read book list. It is funny and scary and mysterious and sad and lovely.

For those of you keeping score this is not my first Neil Gaiman Secondary Character. I did SPIDER from Anansi Boys a while back. What can I say? As long as Gaiman keeps writing wonderful drawn characters they are going to keep showing up here.

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 ...

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Secondary Character Saturday — SPIDER (Anansi Boys)

Who: Spider

My take on the Anansi brothers, Fat Charlie and Spider. [Copyright: ritaLOVEStoWRITE.]

My take on the Anansi brothers, Fat Charlie and Spider. [Copyright: ritaLOVEStoWRITE.]

From: Anansi Boys

Written by: Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: Jan 2008.

Why: He’s the trickster brother to the book’s everyman hero, Fat Charlie.  He’s the cool, funny, magical brother you’d always wish you had. Kinda. [Full disclosure: I’m really a card-carrying member of “Team Fat Charlie. ” But, as he’s the lead character, I couldn’t really pick him for this profile could I?  So I picked Spider, who is so like Fat Charlie! –Except he’s completely different.]

Here’s what happened when the brothers met:

“Fat Charlie blew his nose. “I never knew I had a brother,” he said.
“I did,” said Spider. “I always meant to look you up, but I got distracted. You know how it is.”
“Not really.”
“Things came up.”
“What kind of things?”
“Things. They came up. That’s what things do. They come up. I can’t be expected to keep track of them all.”
“Well, give me a f’rinstance.”
Spider drank more wine. “Okay. The last time I decided that you and I should meet, I, well, I spent days planning it. Wanted it to go perfectly. I had to choose my wardrobe. Then I had to decide what I’d say to you when we met. I knew that the meeting of two brothers, well, it’s the subject of epics, isn’t it? I decided that the only way to treat it with the appropriate gravity would be to do it in verse. But what kind of verse? Am I going to rap it? Declaim it? I mean, I’m not going to greet you with a limerick. So. It had to be something dark, something powerful, rhythmic, epic. And then I had it. The perfect line: Blood calls to blood like sirens in the night. It says so much. I knew I’d be able to get everything in there – people dying in alleys, sweat and nightmares, the power of free spirits uncrushable. Everything was going to be there. And then I had to come up with a second line, and the whole thing completely fell apart. The best I could come up with was Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty got a fright.”
Fat Charlie blinked. “Who exactly is Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty?”
“It’s not anybody. It’s just there to show you where the words ought to be. But I never really got any futher on it than that, and I couldn’t turn up with just a first line, some tumpties and three words of an epic poem, could I? That would have been disrespecting you.”
“Well….”
“Exactly. So I went to Hawaii for the week instead. Like I said, something came up.” [Anansi Boys]

Anasi Boys 2

Pros: He’s pretty much a god. He can make people do things with the power of suggestion. He talks to spiders. After living most of his life in hedonistic selfishness (he is a god after all) he learns to grow and love.

Cons: When we first meet him he is selfish and destructive.  He’s a liar and a cheat. And he never thinks about the real world consequences since he never sticks around long enough to deal with them. He steal’s Fat Charlie’s fiance, Rosie, and takes over his flat. He pretty much ruins Fat Charlie’s life.

——————————————————————————–

If you haven’t guessed… I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan. So I was thrilled when one of my besties, Lynn Reynolds gifted me Anansi Boys as an Audible Book  for Christmas. I’d only really done a handful of books on tape before, most notably the Harry Potter books (I’ve also done various books  through my Kindle’s text-too-speech while gardening or painting. But those sound like the “Garman car man” guy  so they don’t count.) Any way, I was really pleased with this Audible Book both for Lenny Henry’s narration and, especially, for the wonderful writing. I think you should give it a try…

Here’s the Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Anansi-Boys-ebook/dp/B000FCKENQ/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

And here’s the link for the Audio version – http://www.amazon.com/Anansi-Boys-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060823844/ref=tmm_abk_title_0

[Image courtesy Amazon.com]

[Image courtesy Amazon.com]

  Click here to read the ritaLOVEStoWRITE Neil Gaiman bioBLOG


Thought of the Day 11.10.12 Neil Gaiman

“It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.”

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

“The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

— Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman was born on this day in Portchester, Hampshire, England in 1960. He is 52 years old.

Gaiman is the oldest of three siblings. He learned to read at about four, and loved books from early on.

As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton.  A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries…as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there.”[neilgaiman.com — biography]

He worked his way through the children’s section and  into the young adult literature. He did well at school because he’d already read all the books. Gaiman especially loved Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which he got out from his school library. The only problem was the library only had The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the third book was missing. When he won the school’s English prize for reading he was finally able to buy The Return of the King and finish the trilogy.

Hew also enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series and Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland — he read Alice so often that he had it memorized. But he also read more popular genres including science fiction and comic books (he was especially fond of Bat Man.)

Gaiman started his career writing pop bios for the music group Duran Duran and author Douglas Adams.

His first foray into the graphic novel genre  was with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens… The end of the world is at hand (it’s next Saturday) and the end game is coming to its inevitable conclusion.

Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon — each of whom has lived among Earth’s mortals for many millennia and has grown rather fond of the lifestyle — are not particularly looking forward to the coming Rapture. If Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop it from happening, they’ve got to find and kill the Antichrist (which is a shame, as he’s a really nice kid). [Ibid  — works]

Cover of "The Sandman: Book of Dreams"

Cover of The Sandman: Book of Dreams

Gaiman worked on a number of comics  and graphic novels before being offered a chance to develop the Sandman series. The comic followed Morpheus (aka Sandman or Dream)

…There are seven brothers and sisters who have been since the beginning of time, the Endless. They are Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delirium who was once Delight, and Destruction who turned his back on his duties. Their names describe their function and the realms that they are in charge of. Several years ago, a coven of wizards attempted to end death by taking Death captive, but captured Dream instead. When he finally escapes he must face the changes that have gone on in his realm, and the changes in himself. [Ibid  — works]

It first appeared in 1989 and spanned 10 years of single issues, collections and books.  This “dark, soulful, literary epic” [Guardian.co.uk] is thickly layered in mythology and beautifully written (and equally beautifully illustrated by a number of top comic book illustrators.) It is creepy and touching and magical.  [I read them as they came out, one issue at a time, and it was a thrill to watch it unfold.] The collections are available in bookstores  [but you wont have that feeling of angst and anticipation of the serialized comic book if you read it as a comic novel.]

American Gods

American Gods (Photo credit: Jhack❦)

Gaiman easily transitioned to novels with Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods and Ananasi Boys. He won a Nebula Award for American Gods  which has just been re-released in an expanded version for its 10th anniversary. HBO is working on an adaptation of the novel.

Coraline

Coraline (Photo credit: M.J.Ambriola)

For children he spans the market from  illustrated book to chapter books — like his excellent Coraline and The Graveyard Book.  His picture books include:

M is for Magic’ (2007); ‘Interworld’ (2007), co-authored with Michael Reaves; The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1997); The Wolves in the Walls’ (2003); the Greenaway-shortlisted ‘Crazy Hair’ (2009), illustrated by Dave McKean; ‘The Dangerous Alphabet (2008), illustrated by Gris Grimly; Blueberry Girl (2009); and ‘Instructions’ (2010), illustrated by Charles Vess. [neilgaiman.com — works]

Here is Gaiman reading the Blueberry Girl.

He’s written screenplays for his own Neverwhere, MirrorMask and English translation of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 2007 version of Beowulf. Recently he fulfilled a lifelong dream by writing an episode of Dr. Who (“The Doctor’s Wife”)

At the San Diego Comic-Con this year Gaiman confirmed that he will release a prequel to the Sandman series.

“When I finished writing The Sandman, there was one tale still untold – the story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman No 1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war.” [Guardian.co.uk]

Gaiman tours extensively with his wife, musician Amanda Palmer. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh, PA on November 14th you can catch him for “An Evening of Stardust” at Carnegie Music Hall. [Sadly I will not be there, but if you snag me a signed copy of Stardust I’ll be your friend forever.]


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