Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Neil and Len

by Suw on November 8, 2005

I absolutely promise this'll be the last post about Neil Gaiman for a while. Absolutely. Promise.
Tonight was the 'Lenny Henry interviews Neil Gaiman in front of about 1000 people' thing, which I had previously sworn blind I wouldn't go to, but then was invited to and I couldn't possibly turned down such a kind invitation. And I'm glad I went, because it would have been criminal to miss out on Neil and Len, not to mention churlish.
Neil has a great sense of humour. If you've read any of his stuff you know this already, but what you don't realise is that he also has a great sense of comic timing too. Lenny, being a comic, patently must have a great sense of comic timing, so that comes as no real surprise to anyone. But the two of them together were quite hysterical.
It's always hard to discuss comedy because I just can't convey to you just how funny it was to see them play off each other. The fact that they're friends helps – the little looks and in jokes and prior knowledge all served to make their chat that bit more intimate, that bit more revealing, that bit funnier.
Plus I think I'd always happy to see Lenny taking the piss out of Neil in front of 1000 people. Class bit of work.
What was also nice was that this evening's event allowed me to introduce t'other to the delight that is Neil's writing, even though it be by proxy through Lenny's and Neil's readings. And the readings were fantastic. Lenny read an Anansi Boys passage where Fat Charlie wakes up with a hangover, and Neil read the bit where Fat Charlie learns his father's died, and the rather embarrassing circumstances of his passing away. Both most chortlesome.
(And it amused me no end to find that vodka and orange was blamed, considering the vodka and orange truffles. I think I forgot to mention the orange when I explained the vodka and chocolates.)
I really can't wait for Christmas. I am going to take two weeks off, and I swear I am going to do nothing but read books. And sleep. My pile of unread books is getting scary now. I think it's probably about 3ft deep. It's worrying when you start measuring your reading list in terms of depth, rather than number of books. (I did have an unread magazine pile that was starting to get to 4ft, at which point I sorted it out, and gave them all to my Dad to read instead, in a sort of electric monk sort of way, so that I didn't have to.)
Anyway, it was a truly delightful evening. When we left, I think Neil was preparing himself to sign a ludicrously large number of books. In fact, there's every possibility he's still there now, pen in hand, scrawling Nial Gahman… Neal Giamon… Narly Granim…

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I was going to open this post with a direct quote from a website that gathers salacious gossip about the stars, but which says about Neil Gaiman nothing more than, and here I paraphrase, “However lovely you think Neil Gaiman is, he's actually lovelier”. Sadly, I can't find the link, so you'll have to take Mr Gaiman's word for it, as he's my source for this disgraceful rumour which just happens to fall in the the category of 'understatement' when compared to the actual truth of the matter.
Every now and again, the universe seems to warp a bit and throws me up on the beach of Somewhere Unexpected and watches me flapping around like a stranded fish trying to figure out just how in hell I got there. It's like that bit out of Hitchhikers. You know. With the shore washing up and down.
So, last night, I went to a launch party for Neil's Anansi Boys (which no, I haven't read because I'm saving it for Christmas when I can give it the full and proper attention it deserves, rather than stealing half-moments out of my over-full days). It was definitely one of those fish-stranded-on-beach moments, but really in the best possible way.
It's a bizarre story how I got there, centring around a throw-away comment made by me on this blog, a comment from Neil, the promise patronage for ORG and a number of emails, some of which were very long, complicated and slightly bemused and one of which invited me to 'a' book launch party.
Nevertheless, get there I did, and the first thing I did after I got there was get myself a vodka. There's not much a glass of Wyborowa can't help with. Then I went to introduce myself to Neil, who, much to my astonishment, recognised me before I had even said a word. He was somewhat caught up in talking to booksellers and signing books (book launch parties not being much of a party for the book launcher), and so we agreed to talk about ORG later on, and in the meantime I'd go find people to harass.
I actually knew no one else there so I just wandered up to people and said “Hi, I don't know anyone here so I thought I'd come and say hello!” and they'd look at me and ask “How did you come to be here then?” and I'd say “Oh, well, er, I know Neil” and that turned out to be a nice conversation starter pretty much every time. Can't imagine why.
Yesterday afternoon, as it happens, Paula and I were talking about how awful our memories are, and Cory gave us a tip for how you remember people – make some some stupid little mental story about the person you're meeting, a sort of mnemonic, and you'll remember them straight away. Employing this tactic, I now remember that I met the delightful Roz Kaveney, Mitch Benn, Faith Brooker, Vanessa, Gwen, Richard Howe, Tom, Clare and Andy Quinn amongst others. Wow. I never remember people's names!
Ended up having a really nice evening randomly chatting to people, and then towards the end, when Neil had done his duty, we got to chat about digital rights and what is happening with ORG and what a Patron-In-Waiting (which is what we decided he is, at least until we have a real membership organisation for him to be Patron of) can do.
I can't say I ever quite shook off my slight feelings of shyness and nervousness, but Neil is gracious and easy to talk to. I felt completely honoured to get to go out for dinner with him and some of his friends, and we had just the most entertaining time trying to figure out what some of the dishes on the menu might actually be made from as the menu writer had obviously decided that listing actual ingredients would be not just superfluous, but possibly also crass.
Anyway, tonight Lenny Henry is interviewing Neil, and with kind thanks to Andy Quinn, I shall be there.

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