When Neil Gaiman is your guide for the evening, you’ll find yourself following where he leads. It’ll be a place you’ve never been, walking down a path you didn’t think could be.
But whilst you marvel at the journey, you have come to expect nothing less from this master of words.
The first Neil Gaiman event I attended was in October last year. A reading of “Fortunately, the milk”. I wrote about it here.
It was magical. Perhaps because it is a children’s book, which should be magical if you wish to reach your audience.
Last night was firmly aimed at Gaiman’s adult audience (though there were a few children in attendance). Thus it was not what I would call magical. It was something else.
Something along the lines of art coming to life in a way that few would dare to try.
FourPlay String Quartet opens the event with the Dr. Who theme. I must confess I’ve never watched a whole episode of Dr. Who, but I had heard that it was part of the introduction (a spoiler from the Carnegie Hall show a few days ago).
It is subtly beautiful.
They then perform three more original pieces. I love modern string music of that kind and enjoyed it immensely.
So, I will say that I was not too impatient for having to wait for Neil himself to appear, which he does in due time. Naturally the applause is enthusiastic. The most amazing thing happens when he lifts his arms in a wide gesture in front of him bringing them slowly down bidding us wordlessly to finish our applause. It is quiet within seconds.
He begins by telling an anecdote from his morning, then reads us a poem about flying saucers, zombies and the overall end of the world. Followed by a short story about adventures, the kind that features pterodactyls and Aztecs.
His voice is quiet and certain, not dominating. It’s a voice I would believe just about anything it told me.
He tells us two short stories, one in July and one in October. Today he will likely tell two different months. It would seem that he makes changes during this part of the program, so no two audiences will experience quite the same show.
Before intermission we listen to a song about a sad person googling their lost lover in a somewhat stalkerish manner.
Whilst singing is not his forte, it is a rare treat to be appreciated, especially knowing that even one such as him gets terribly nervous before each time in front of an audience.
Then we are released to make a mad dash to the loos and perhaps to buy a book. I’d love to buy one, but my current budget does not allow for it. And sadly it would go into storage for quite some time.
Intermission is over soon and the main act begins: a reading of “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”, underscored by FourPlay String Quartet and drawings by Eddie Campbell.
It is dark and eerie storytelling accompanied masterfully by incredible melodies. More than once do I shiver with goose bumps.
I’d read the story once before, so I knew what would happen, but the delivery of it in such a manner made it an entirely different experience than merely reading it.
I dare say not many stories, short or long, could be told in such a wholesome way.
It was a wholly fascinating experience, one only a Mr. Gaiman is able to conceive of and deliver.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and, judging by the applause in the end, so did the nearly 2000 other audience members.
The evening was wrapped up with Eddie and Hayley Campbell joining on stage, the answering of a few questions and quite a bit of banter between those two and Neil Gaiman.
After the two Campbells leave, Neil announces that we weren’t to be sent home on such a bleak note, having listened to a story full of murder and revenge. Instead he would sing us another song.
One that turns out to be about a murdering psycho.
Well played, Mr. Gaiman, well played.
They take a final bow and leave under roaring applause. Three hours well spent.
I had no expectations going in, but I knew it was going to be good and quite likely unique. I was not disappointed.
I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again, but I have no doubt I will eventually. Perhaps even to shake his hand. To thank him for all his stories and for continuing to inspire my own writerly ventures into the unknown.