Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review: Neil Gaiman's EPIC visit to Bath

Neil Gaiman’s new novel ‘Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is out now but fans got a signed exclusive on Friday, the 14th of June at The Forum in Bath, organised by Topping & Company Booksellers.

Such a large literary gathering could only parallel JK Rowling’s talk during Bath Literature Festival earlier in the year. And it is easy to see why – Neil’s witty writing style effortlessly translates into his performance. He opened the talk with a reading from Ocean at the End of the Lane, watched by hundreds of curious eyeballs. Neil was momentarily stunned by their sheer numbers once the lights came on for the question and answer section. Though Bath marked the opening of his UK tour, he didn’t seem to have anticipated quite so many eager fans. Before going on, Neil defined that a question is a short interrogative statement, ending with a question mark.

The fans were eager to know what inspired the new book. One stem of its origins is rather twisted, so if you are easily offended, stop reading at this point and carry on from the next paragraph. As a child, Neil was very fond of a Mini Cooper his father was driving at the time. However, one day the Mini mysteriously disappeared. It didn't cross Neil’s mind to quiz his father about the disappearance until early adolescence. When he did, his father simply explained that the car was stolen by a South African lodger who was involved in some money smuggling scheme, and one day happened to spend all his money at a Brighton casino. The lodger then went on to steal the family’s Mini which he crashed, and died, leaving Neil’s father to identify the body. He sold the car the very same day. The story was delivered in a true Gaiman-esque style – Neil mused that at the time of this event he was a bit of a book-worm, and was upset that nothing exciting ever happens to him.

Like his child protagonist who doesn’t stick to a path but yearns to explore, it seems that Neil too ran away with the idea, now pleasing fans all over the globe. The book started as a short story to his wife, but grew into a novella, eventually reaching the word count of a respectable novel, and bewildered Neil sent his editor an e-mail apologising for accidentally writing a novel. One of the ideas he explores in the novel are children’s feelings and ways of thinking which don’t seem to last into adulthood. He argued that children tend to lie less to themselves and see darkness more clearly, whereas adults have a need to invent euphemisms. What else is interesting is that some of the characters are never named.

He also gave hints about other things he’s been upto. When asked about American Gods HBO TV production, he explained that the revised script is currently vending it’s way ‘upstairs’, and the odds are looking good at the moment, though nothing is certain. With regards to Good Omen Neil commented deliciously that there is nothing he can talk about at this time, at this stage. One can only conclude from such a statement that something is definitely happening.

The author was also asked to name the work he’s most proud of. His answer was Fortunately the Milk - a novel about an average father just popping out for milk and being abducted by aliens. It will come out in September this year, and his pitch to the audience was that it is the silliest thing he’s ever written. The process of writing was especially embarrassing when he sat in coffee shops with his notebook, laughing out loudly at his own writing. If someone asked, how could he explain that he’s just laughing at a time-travelling Stegosaurus, riding a hot air balloon, and Australia being replaced with a huge novelty plate of Australia by aliens who want to redecorate Earth? 

With Neil Gaiman, prepare to be never bored again.

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