So after seeing Neil Gaiman at the Usher Hall last week, I decided to reread American Gods, which is probably my favourite of Neil Gaiman’s novels, and indeed one of my favourite books. I’ve read it a few times before, and the last time that I reread it I ended up writing this post about how I was having trouble reviewing it. Basically I felt that couldn’t adequately sum up what the book was about and what I liked about it. I guess that’s still true, it’s one of the few books that I am just really attached to, and I can’t really explain why that is. But anyway I love the book, I was glad I reread it, and I would recommend it, even if I can’t say why!
Last night I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. This was part of his tour of his performance of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. It’s a short story that he reads, accompanied by images from artist Eddie Campbell, and music from a string quartet called Four Play. In addition to that he also read several shorter stories, and Four Play performed some songs, including a wonderful rendition of the Doctor Who theme. He even sang a couple of songs! Overall it was a really enjoyable evening, a unique performance, and I was very impressed by the whole thing.
I just read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I obviously read this last year when it first was published - I had it pre-ordered and picked it up from the book shop the day it was released! I re-read it now for my book group, we’ll be discussing the book at our next meeting. As I said in my original review, I absolutely loved the book. I was a bit worried about how it would stand up to re-reading, but I loved it just as much this time around. I think it’s a fantastic book about childhood, and memory, and secrets, and magic. It’s a great little story, written wonderfully. It has stuck with me since I first read it, and re-reading it proved it to be as lovely as I first thought.
Having just reread Coraline I decided to rewatch the film adaptation too. I’ve seen this before, but only once when it was first in the cinema. I really liked it then, and I am pleased that it stands up to repeat viewing. It’s a good adaptation of the novel, adding in some new material but still remaining true to the heart of the book. It’s creepy and scary in some places and wonderfully entertaining throughout. It looks amazing too, the stop-motion animation is fantastic. I really enjoyed it.
Earlier this week I had a problem when I abandoned a book that I wasn’t enjoying, which disrupted my reading flow and left me uncertain of what to read next. I ended up randomly rereading a book that wasn’t on my to-read list, but just caught my attention when I was looking over my bookshelves. Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a book that I last read years ago, although I bought this lovely anniversary edition only last year as my original paperback had long since gone missing. I’ve mentioned before that Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, but this has always been one of my least favourite of his books. I think that’s because it’s so much of a children’s book, so it just doesn’t have quite the same appeal for me. But I don’t mean to criticise it when I say that, because it is still a very enjoyable and very good book. Even reading it as an adult it is very creepy in places. Coraline is a wonderful character and it is very much the sort of book I would have adored as a child. So I can’t fault it in any way really, and while it’s still not my among my favourite of Neil Gaiman’s books, I am really glad to have this lovely copy of it, and I think I made the right choice in choosing to read it again now.
I originally wasn’t going to read Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman. While he is my favourite author, this is very much a children’s book, and I know I’m not the intended audience. However, today the book was one of Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals, which meant that it was available for just over £1. At that price, I really couldn’t resist. I am really glad that I did read it, because I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun story, full of humour and strangeness, and exactly the sort of thing I would have loved when I was a kid. Even though I am no longer a kid, it is still nice to enjoy reading something a bit silly and fun every now and then.
A final wrap up of the various Edinburgh festival things I’ve been doing.
I also went to the Iain Banks celebration event. It was very bitter sweet because Iain Banks was the reason I started going to the festival in the first place, and I loved seeing him speak there several times over the past few years, so being at the festival and not seeing him was immensely sad. But it was nice to see various fellow authors, including Ken Macleod, Ian Rankin and Neil Gaiman pay tribute to his work and tell stories of him as a person too.
Outside the book festival I also saw a few things, such as the David Sedaris event that again I have already written about.
I was annoyed to miss the Ab Lib events, which were a series of events featuring people such as Neil Gaiman (again!), Terry Pratchett and Steven Moffat. I would have loved to have gone to those but it just wasn’t to be.
Another highlight was the recording of the BBC Radio 4 show The Unbelievable Truth. I love the show and the recording was great. It was really long though, they must cut about 2/3 of it out to edit down to the half hour broadcast. I am really looking forward to hearing it again on the radio and seeing what made the cut!
Overall it was a really good year. There are some downsides to the festival, such as the massive crowds, and the fact that I had to work through most of it in order to afford to go to the few things that I did see! I really enjoyed all of the events that I went to and there were many more things that I would have liked to have gone to were it possible. Next year I’m hoping to save up a bit more, take a few more days off work, and have an even better time! But this year was great.
I had tickets to three Neil Gaiman events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and I’ve now been to all of them. I wrote up the first event here, and this is a wee summary of the second two.
As the first event was focused on the new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the second event I went to was themed around The Sandman and comics. There was another event focused on his children’s books but I didn’t go to that one.
I actually read the comics before any of the novels, and while he is my favourite novelist, I also still adore The Sandman. In fact I am planning to reread it very soon as it has been a few years since my last reading of it and I sort of wished I had had time to read it before the event.
It was interesting to hear him talk about comics because at all the other events I’ve been to - both this year and the previous occasions when I’ve seen him at the book festival and elsewhere - the focus has largely been on his other books so I hadn’t really heard him talk about The Sandman. I am very excited to read the new miniseries he’ll be doing - all the more reason to reread the books.
The third and final event I went to was Neil Gaiman in conversation with Margaret Atwood, which was again very interesting. I am not actually familiar with Atwood’s work but my mother and sister love her work, and I am intrigued by the way she has found success both with mainstream and genre readers. Part of the conversation between the two of them focused on their own reading influences and the genre/mainstream divide and it was very insightful and interesting to hear their opinions.
Again I was able to get books signed at all the events - sorry for the lousy picture quality, my camera on my phone has been playing up a bit.
Overall I really enjoyed these events, and the book festival in general. It’s always a great experience and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this year as I have the past few years. It was the 30th anniversary of the book festival, and I hope there will be many more years to come and that I will be able to enjoy visiting the festival and meeting brilliant authors again.
Neil Gaiman is appearing here at Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I have seen him here before on several occasions but I was still thrilled that he was coming back this year. He’s doing four events and I have tickets to three of them! The first one last night was Neil in conversation with psychologist Charles Fernyhough, discussing his newest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The discussion centred around themes of memory and childhood, in keeping with the subject of the novel. It was a really fascinating discussion. I am actually now planning to read Fernyhough’s own novel too, as he seemed like an interesting writer himself. But as always, seeing Neil Gaiman was a great joy, and he was brilliantly entertaining and thought provoking. I arrived really early for the event, almost 90 minutes beforehand, as past experience at the book festival has taught me to queue up early. This meant that I managed to sit right in the front row, almost directly opposite Neil Gaiman. I also had a nice discussion with some fellow fans that I met in the queue, which was unexpected given my general social anxieties, but they were lovely people to chat to and made the wait much nicer than normal. I also managed to get two more of my books signed - having seen him several times now, almost all of my collection (minus the Sandman books) has been autographed! I also got to admire the really cool Cyberman broach he was wearing. Overall it was a great evening out and I am looking forward to seeing him again over the rest of the weekend.
Portsmouth named a road after the new Neil Gaiman book.
One of the reasons why I’ve been a bit busy lately is that I live in Edinburgh and I have been trying to spend some time seeing things during the Festival period. I haven’t seen as much as I’d like, partly because I have to work full time, and partly because things are actually really expensive.
But so far I’ve seen:
- Susan Calman Fringe stand up show - really funny, and my first comedy show too, I loved hearing about the Orient Express
- Patrick Ness at the book festival - really interesting, although the venue was weird, but he made some good points about writing and fantasy fiction
- Sandi Toksvig at the book festival - utterly brilliant, she was just so funny and interesting and such a nice person
I am going to see:
- a recording of The Unbelievable Truth for BBC Radio 4, I am so excited because I love the show, and David Mitchell, and Radio 4 in general
- David Sedaris who is oddly appearing as part of the Fringe rather than the book festival, but should be good either way
- Neil Gaiman at the book festival, on more than one occasion, and even though I have seen him several times now, I am still really looking forward to this
I am hoping that all of this will make up for how horribly crowded the city is at the moment. It sucks to be stuck in work and then have to battle through the crowds on the way home. But what I have seen so far has been excellent, so I am hoping the rest is great too.