Tonight I saw Neil Gaiman read his new book, Coraline. Yes, all of it.
I got to the church at about 5:20 and found Kevin waiting in line, saving a spot for me. While standing outside and waiting, a man in a wheelchair asked me who was speaking tonight, and what he’d written. It was an awkward question, because I knew there was no way the man would have heard of anything Gaiman had written. I rattled off Gaiman’s books, and then the man asked what he primarily wrote about.
That was an even harder question. “Stories,” I decided after a pause. “The stories people tell, and how stories affect people, and how people believe in stories.”
And to my confusion, the man in the wheelchair said “Well, he may have another fan,” as he rolled off.
The ticket said that the doors would open at 5:30, but we didn’t get in until about 5:45. At 6:30, someone came out and announced that, at the author’s request, we would be starting 15 minutes late, because many of the will-call tickets hadn’t been claimed, and “there are lots of people coming in from out of the area who don’t know what parking’s like around here.”
The place was pretty full, though there seemed to be adequate seating for everyone. Kevin said that out of 800 tickets, there were only 45 tickets left for sale at the door.
A very nice touch was that the first three rows were reserved for people who brought children with them. Especially nice, considering that the book is as much a children’s adventure as anything. And about two of the three rows actually had people with children in tow, which was very cool to see.
Another very nice touch was that they were piping a multitude of the more mellow Magnetic Fields songs through the church before the reading and during the intermission.
So Gaiman came out at around 6:50. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “I’m going to very quickly answer a few frequently asked questions right up front to give commuters a few more minutes to get here, and then I’m going to read Coraline to you. And then about halfway through we’ll take a break, and then I’ll finish reading Coraline to you.”
For the record, the frequently asked questions that he pulled out of his head to answer were:
- A little news about a Corline movie (to be directed by the guy who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, and staring Michelle Pfeiffer as the Mom and the Other Mom, apparently).
- “Tori’s new album is wonderful, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
- And news that he’s currently writing some new Sandman stories that will come out as a hard back volume next February as part of Vertigo’s 10th anniversary.
- And those were his faqs. Of course, if you read his journal, you probably knew that already.
So then, he read us Coraline, and we had an intermission, and then he finished reading Coraline, just like he said he would.
He did a remarkable job, and only had one real slip of the tongue, when he accidentally said “Caroline” when it was supposed to be a “Coraline.” Though later, he subtly referenced that by improvising and having one of the characters who gets her name wrong say “Caroline, Corline, Whatever your name is, …” where the book only had a “Caroline.” (I was following along in my own copy occasionally, and since that character calling her Coraline (instead of Caroline) was out of place, I double checked and noticed the improv.)
As for the book itself, it was good and short and fun. It is, after all, a children’s/young adult novel. It’s got a lot of Alice and Wonderland aspects to it, complete with a sarcastic cat… It was cute and I enjoyed, but the ending left me a little irritated in a niggling details kind of way. Considering that Gaiman read it *out loud* in 3.5 hours or so, you could probably read it in an hour or two yourself.
We got out of there at about 11:05. You do the math.
But it was a fantastic evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was well worth my time and money.
When it was all over, someone shouted “Read it again,” to which Gaimain paused briefly and then simply said “No.” It carried that strange quality of finality that only a british accent can.