This morning I booked to see Neil Gaiman in January. I’ve seen him speak before, of course, and every time I leave with a pocketful of new insights into storytelling, despite the occasional moment of squirming when he makes a remark about his works being taught.
When did I discover Neil Gaiman, though? I was a comparative latecomer. I still haven’t actually finished reading Sandman.
I discovered Neil Gaiman one night after being locked in University Parks, Oxford.
I was in Oxford with my best friend. We’d just been by Tolkien’s house.
We decided to wander the park for a while and enjoy the trees (if you’ve read The Lord of the Rings, you know Tolkien liked a tree). Twilight fell and the park was ever so pretty.
But twilight passes quickly in England at that time of year and soon our view was considerably darker.
We decided we’d better hurry to the gates. But the gates were already closed and locked. We looked at one another. My friend is rather tall and spry (she is the elf in our friendship). She was sure she could jump the gates. I’m shorter. I was wearing a long skirt. I pointed this out to her. Eventually, a lovely lady walking her dog, who happened to have one of the precious gate keys, took pity on us and, with a chuckle, freed us.
By this point, we were starving, and I promised my friend cake to make up for our misadventure. We went to a little cafe in one of the big bookstores down on St Giles.
Afterwards, we were wandering the stacks and I saw Neverwhere on the shelf. I admit it, I was attracted by the copper rat on the cover and the promise of rat kings and the author being “like some demented cook” (the Clive Barker quote on the back over).
My friend had read Neverwhere before me. She’d seen the BBC television series, too. She assured me I couldn’t go wrong, so I bought my first bit of Neil Gaiman storytelling.
I really haven’t looked back since. As my students can probably tell you!