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Books & Lit

Luminato 2009: an Enchanting Evening With Neil Gaiman

Posted by Roger Cullman / June 11, 2009

Neil Gaiman at LuminaTO festivalNeil Gaiman, author of Coraline among many other critically acclaimed work (the Sandman graphic novels among them), gave an enchanting talk at the St. Lawrence Centre's Jane Mallett Theatre on Monday night.

The Luminato event sold out in three minutes, proving that hearing an author of his caliber read from his own work, and sign autographs afterward, still has the power to draw crowds of fans.

Prior to the talk, it could be said that I wasn't a die-hard fan of his work, but hearing him read from his new novel The Graveyard Book has converted me. Gaiman and his writing are both witty and irreverent.

"People look at my career as an author with puzzlement," said Gaiman, "because I broke all the rules. It's likely because I came out of the comic world, where anything goes."

Neil Gaiman at LuminaTO festivalSpace's Mark Asquith chatted with Gaiman about his career and the writing process while the audience listened intently, observing the two on the starkly lit stage, with an apropos backdrop of six red lights pointing upwards onto a velvety red curtain, setting the scene for the readings of his dark tales that were to follow.

Neil Gaiman at LuminaTO festivalA Q&A proceeded, in which there were invariably too many hands to appease than time would allow. The entire event only lasted about an hour and a half.

Gaiman was his usual accommodating self, following the talk with a meet-and-greet/autograph signing session which lasted twice as long as the scheduled event, ending at around midnight. That's three hours of signing! You'd think he'd have writer's cramp by then.

But Gaiman was probably used to it, admitting to penning one of his recent novels in pen-and-ink, foregoing modern technology's conveniences. He told of losing chapter three on an airplane, but wasn't too concerned, as he said his handwriting is illegible by anyone else.

"I would write longhand in a leather-bound notebook with pen and ink," explained Gaiman. "I did this to get back into the older way of writing. Technology has changed the way we write."

He went on to describe how, back in the 18th century, you'd get these wonderful, long sentences that went on for a paragraph, because if you'd stop, you'd have to re-ink the pen.

Neil Gaiman at LuminaTO festivalBut Gaiman is no stranger to technology, having embraced social media early on. You can find him on Twitter with his already half-a-million-plus followers. He's an active Twitterer with over 3,300 updates. "I'm so used to the wonderful world of comics," he said, "which is why I've taken like a duck to water with Twitter."

Gaiman's reading was delightful to listen to. He should read from his work more often. While he admits he doesn't like the sound of his own voice (who does?) I think he I might check out some of his novels read on downloadable audio books from iTunes or Audible.

Neil Gaiman at LuminaTO festivalIt's the story aspect that's most important to him. And Gaiman is a master storyteller, as is evident in his work. He has collaborated with many other fine artists, including Terry Pratchett (Good Omens), Dave McKean (Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch) and Roger Avary (Beowulf).

It was a treat to hear Gaiman read from Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, a fairytale he wrote in collaboration with Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, who put out her debut solo album with the same title. Gaiman and Palmer are now romantically involved. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven. Or, in his case, perhaps the graveyard.

Photos by Roger Cullman.



Lioness / June 11, 2009 at 09:50 am
Do you remember which book it was he was talking about that he wanted to get back to the 18th C frame of mind? I remember thinking "That is the one I have to read next" but I don't remember the title.
Curly / June 11, 2009 at 10:18 am
WTF?! Don't you just like it when you find out on Toronto's leading blog that you missed something like this.

No "upcoming events" Blog.TO ?!?!
Roger replying to a comment from Curly / June 11, 2009 at 10:37 am
Sorry you missed it.

The event was listed on our <a href="";>Events listing page</a> for last Monday, but you'd have had to had your ear to the ground months ago when tickets were first announced, to even have had a chance to snatch up tickets. As I mentioned in the review, this event sold out in three minutes.

Keep an eye out for our <a href="";>Radar</a> page for blogTO's daily picks too.
CabbagePatch replying to a comment from Curly / June 11, 2009 at 10:52 am
I missed it too, but it wasn't BlogTO'S fault; this event was sold out in minutes! I found out on the Luminato website, waited one day for pay day, tried to buy...and no such luck :(

Maybe we should all tweet him @neilhimself and ask him to come back!
Roger / June 11, 2009 at 11:55 am
It's only fitting that <i>The Graveyard Book</i> was named <a href=";STORY=/www/story/05-30-2009/0005035048&EDATE=" target="_blank">Audiobook of the Year</a> by The Audio Publishers Association at the 2009 Audies.
Matthew Fabb replying to a comment from Lioness / June 11, 2009 at 01:29 pm
Lioness, the book Gaiman was talking about was Stardust, where he tried to write it as a pre-Tolkien fantasy story. Note there's two versions of Stardust available, the original version with illustrations by Charles Vest and a plain text version. Charles Vest's illustrations are just incredibly beautiful, so I recommend checking that version out.
Lioness / June 11, 2009 at 01:37 pm
Thanks Matt. Are you coming the the Can't Stop The Serenity screening on the 20th?
Matthew Fabb replying to a comment from Curly / June 11, 2009 at 01:45 pm
As Mark Asquith mentioned in his introduction to Neil Gaiman, his first big success was in Toronto, when early in his career Gaiman's comic book Violent Cases sold more copies in Toronto than all the copies sold elsewhere combined. Also Neil Gaiman often appeared on TVOntario's Prisoners of Gravity, which was produced by Mark Asquith. I think this has resulted in a pretty large fanbase in Toronto compared to other cities, which means any of his Toronto appearances you have to know about before tickets go on sale to have a hope in going.

He's likely be back eventually in Toronto next time he does a book tour, but it might be a couple of years.
Roger / June 11, 2009 at 01:48 pm
There's a transcript of Mark Askwith's introduction <a href=""; target="_blank">here</a> if you missed the show and want to live vicariously through this Space blog entry.
Matthew Fabb replying to a comment from Lioness / June 11, 2009 at 02:29 pm
Lioness, it's been a while since I've made it to one of the "Can't Stop The Serenity" screenings, so I would like to go. However, I'm going to be in New York that weekend, so I won't be able to make it this year.
fed up / June 11, 2009 at 04:45 pm
Spelling error. It is calibre, not caliber. You are aware you are north of the 49th, eh?
Roger replying to a comment from fed up / June 11, 2009 at 06:20 pm
Thanks for your thoroughness. However, it's not a spelling error. North American media (including Canada) use Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary as an authority. So if it appears as a main entry, as in <a href=""; target="_blank">here</a>, that's what is used. And, if I'm not mistaken, Canadian Press style agrees with this spelling too.
amy replying to a comment from Lioness / June 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm
Jerry / June 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm
I was at the event as well. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to listen to his second reading as I was volunteering but he seems like a very interesting person. I picked up The Graveyard Book and will be reading it soon
Dominique / November 29, 2009 at 03:58 pm
Neil Gaiman is the single most over-hyped writer to ever pollute the web with his self-aggrandizing nonsense. His movies have all been atrocious, and his books are just lame. Gaiman is such a narcissist, he hinted around that JK. Rowling had stolen ideas from his anemic comic book The Books of Magic. Since all have his movies have bombed, maybe he'll go back to comic books and leave literary folk alone.
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