Sunday, June 30, 2013

Neil Gaiman: That 'Oceanic' Feeling . . .

Neil Gaiman
He's got the whole world
in his hands . . .
Photo by Carolyn Cole
L. A. Times

A few years ago, I got onto a Neil Gaiman kick and read several works -- I even went so far as to 'borrow' his Shoggoth's Old Peculiar as the tempting drink in my Bottomless Bottle of Beer novella -- so when I happened across a review of his most recent story, I grew interested again:
On June 18, Gaiman's new novel, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" (William Morrow: 192 pp., $25.99), arrives. A dark fairy tale about a bookish 7-year-old boy growing up in England with distracted parents and a neighbor who remembers the big bang, it's the author's first book for adults since his bestselling 2005 fantasy "Anansi Boys." (Rebecca Keegan, "Getting to know Neil Gaiman," Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2013)
Big Bang, eh? Must be science fiction. Or pornography! I better read it to find out! I didn't read Anansi Boys, I stopped spending money when I saw how expensive his graphic Sandman was! But I might order this recent novel. I liked his Graveyard Book. He seems, by the way, a man generous with his time:
Gaiman is remarkably accessible to his audience, quickly replying to their tweets and chronicling his thoughts in an online diary.
I can vouch for this. When I read The Graveyard Book, I grew curious about the source of the "nobody owns" poem and did a lot of searching online for that. I even emailed Gaiman's agent for words possibly from the horse's mouth. Gaiman himself replied:
The first reference I found to it was in a book on Death Customs in England, which referred to it as a trad nursery rhyme and had it in the form I listed in the book.

When we were copyediting, we wondered about the grammer on who and whom and that, and then I found myself spending a week on the internet doing exactly the journey you did, and coming to similar conclusions. But liking the version I'd read first the best, and liking the idea that it was a nursery rhyme the best -- and really not knowing if the poem was echoing something older or not. So I left it...
That was unexpected, quite generous, in fact. Anyway -- to change horses in 'mistdream'-- about his recent Ocean book:
Gaiman began the novel as a short story to explain himself to his new wife, musician Amanda Palmer, who was away recording an album. But as he wrote, the story took on a life of its own.
Not so very autobiographical, but neither is autobiography sometimes:
"It's not autobiographical, but the lead character is very much me age 7, in the geographical landscape that I grew up in," Gaiman said. "It's about memory and about family and magic, and it gets very scary and weird."
I suppose that says some autobiographical thing about the man that Ms. Palmer will learn to appreciate:
"I'd get up every day and go, 'Well, it's got to be finished by the end of the week, hasn't it?' And then the end of the week would happen and I was going, 'Well, it's not a short story, it's obviously a novelette,' and then I thought, 'Well, it's not a novelette, it must be a novella,' and I did a word count and I went, 'Bloody hell, this thing's 56,000 words, that's a novel. Not a long novel, but it's a novel.'"
That's sort of how my novella got written, just kept growing . . .

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