It was pure serendipity that took me back to neilgaiman.com a few weeks ago to see what was happening lately with my favorite author. (The uninitiated can learn more about Neil Gaiman here.) There was a time when I was an almost daily visitor to the site and especially the Journal (pretty much a daily blog, only you can’t comment directly), but haven’t spent nearly as much time there lately. It was there that I found to my great delight than Mr. Gaiman would be making appearances in Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio on October 4th and 5th respectively. I would have traveled to Cleveland with no problem if necessary, since he has never come that close to us that I knew of since I’ve been following him for more than20 years, but Toledo is an hour down I-75 from Detroit, so it was a no-brainer.
The appearance was co-sponsored by the Toledo Lucas County Library System and the Toledo Blade newspaper, and was held at the Stranahan Theater, a spacious venue with a capacity of around 1,700 people, and tickets were only $10 each. We ordered and received our tickets with all due haste and drove down late Monday afternoon to avoid any unforeseen slowdowns. After a terrific dinner at Masala Cuisine of India (on South Reynolds Road, about half a mile north of I-80, if anyone is in that neighborhood), we drove the mile or so to the theater and joined the audience that filled better than half the auditorium, but didn’t cause the kind of stress that occurred the night before in Cleveland.
Neil took the stage after brief introductions from Library and Blade honchos who told us everything about him that we already knew. He read Chapter 1 of his best selling, Newbery Medal and Hugo Award winning “The Graveyard Book” in that wonderful voice of his that suits his writing so perfectly. He then followed that with a Question and Answer session with the audience, and I was Johnny-on-the-spot with a question of my own. It and his reply went something like this.
Q: “A Rather different question to satisfy my own personal curiosity: I gather from your blog that you’ve developed a certain appreciation for fine wine, and I was wondering if you could tell us how deep that appreciation is and what some of your favorite wines are?”
A: “I really like wine, but I’m not a true oenophile. I have friends who are oenophiles however, and they’ve ruined things for me. They’ll pour me a glass of wine that cost $150 a bottle and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, well, they saw you coming, didn’t they?’ And then I taste the wine and it’s really good. The flavors just play a chromatic scale across the palate. I like red wine and my favorites are probably French because it’s so close to England and easy for me to get. Then, I’ll get on a plane and they’ll ask me if I’d like a glass of wine, and I’ll say “Yes,” and what I get tastes like spoiled grape juice! So, yes, I really like fine wine and also, single malt Scotch.”
Mr. Gaiman had indicated at the start that he’d read again after the Q & A, but when that was over, there was an announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Neil Gaiman!” It seemed to leave no doubt that the reading had come to an end, and Gaiman, looking a little befuddled, left the stage. It was a slightly odd ending to an otherwise delightful evening. Kim was intrigued with aspects of “The Graveyard Book,” so when we arrived home, I pulled our copy for her to read at her leisure. She may opt, however, to watch and listen to Neil read the entire book online, chapter by chapter, recorded last year during a 9-city video tour to launch the book.
Reporting from Day-twah,