They say you should never meet your heroes, but frankly when it comes to favourite authors of mine I never cared about that. I have seen a few authors but seeing Neil Gaiman was something special, something I had been looking forward to ever since I read the announcement and ordered my ticket almost two months ago.
Do I really have to explain who Neil Gaiman is? If you do not know who he is, you will probably not be interested in this post anyway and you might just as well stop reading. Or, even better, go to the nearest book store, find out about what you are missing out on and then come back.
To promote the publication of his most recent novel – The Graveyard Book – Mr. Gaiman came to London on the 31st of October for a public reading and signing in the Old Theatre of the London School of Economics.
I got there well in time, which meant that I was pretty much in front of the queue and got to see how slowly but surely the foyer was filling with other Gaiman afficionados. The atmosphere was a strange mixture of pop concert and fandom. There were people in costumes (several Deaths amongst them) and business men, who could have easily been mistaken as lecturers at the LSE, if not for the assortment of Neil Gaiman books they were carrying, waiting to be signed. Mind you, I probably looked rather business-ish, as I had travelled to London straight from work, looking like the smart-casual consultant that I am most of the time these days. I have not been to a convention in ages, and all of a sudden I could feel this tingle of excitement. The feeling of being amongst people from completely different backgrounds who nevertheless share the same passion. I know it sounds geeky, it probably is, but what the hell.
I managed to get a seat in the second row, the first one being reserved for special guests. Whilst this meant that through most of the reading I could only see Mr. Gaiman’s head (leading to the brief consideration whether Neil Gaiman is actually a Futurama character) it also meant that I was sitting right behind Dave McKean, longterm collaborator of Neil and illustrator of the Graveyard Book. Which is a great story to tell, should I ever try to chat up girls who are fans of Dave McKean’s artwork. Or maybe not.
I had already listened to a few recordings of Mr. Gaiman that are out there for free on the web, but if I ever needed any more convincing to get some audiobook recordings of his works (read by him) this was it. Not all authors are good at reading their own works, but not so Neil Gaiman. Not only has he got an amazing voice, he is also an experienced performer with years of practice. The performance was almost flawless and throughout the reading of a whole chapter there was only once or twice a slip of the tongue.
What else can I say? I thouroughly enjoyed spending a Friday night listening to a great storyteller and apparently so did the rest of the audience, all 550 of them, as opposed to going to the pub, or watching a DVD or spending it in front of my laptop. It has been way too long since I’ve done anything like it and it felt good, worth my while, and special.
I don’t feel ashamed to admit that I carried my Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 down to London to have it signed and taking the opportunity to ask Mr. McKean for the same thing. To which he obliged most patiently, considering that he probably had not planned for this and the staff had to open up an ad hoc queue for him as well.
What a great night out! I got to enjoy my geeky side and was part of a crowd of people who essentially came to listen to a story. Something that is very rare nowadays and lamentably so – its stories that make us human.
See some more pictures, unfortunately not the best…