6 - 20 October 2017

Chapter & Verse BlogChapter & Verse Blog

The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Review: Neil Gaiman at The Dancehouse

Author Neil Gaiman reads from new book Fortunately the Milk at MLF13Jon Parker Lee

  • Author Neil Gaiman reads from new book Fortunately the Milk at MLF13

When I imagined meeting Neil Gaiman, I thought about being able to tell all my science fiction/comic geek friends, the tribe for whom the author is something like a cross between The Pope, President and Batman, what he's like in person.

“Well, he’s just this guy, you know?” I’d say with an insouciant air.

When I met Neil Gaiman, I was not insouciant. I was embarrassingly starstruck. Fortunately, the bestselling, award-winning writer has gotten really good at putting freaked out people at ease. I watched him do this for hours during the signing. A long, long succession of Gaiman fans came up to say hello and have books dedicated and photos taken and tell him how much they loved his writing and give him random things and throughout it all he was unfailingly kind and generous, even when he was getting tired and his hand must have been hurting from signing all those books.

Neil was at The Dancehouse to promote Fortunately, the Milk, his fantastic new children’s book in which a dad goes out to pick up some milk and has surprising adventures involving pirates, wumpires, volcano gods and a stegosaurus in a time-traveling hot air balloon. His very entertaining reading was followed by a Q&A session that roamed around the card catalogue from seminal comic Sandman to American Gods to his picture book about a sneezy panda, Chu’s Day. In a very amusing exchange, a rather stern grandmother told him she didn’t like Fortunately the Milk, but finished up by saying that it was just the thing for her reluctant reader grandson.

Neil told a couple of funny stories about his Good Omens collaborator Terry Pratchett and dropped hints about a new story featuring enigmatic, Dr. Who-like Marquis de Carabas from Neverwhere. He said his plans for the next year or so involve tying up loose ends and trying to dodge those bright, shiny ideas that result in unplanned-for books being written. Personally, I hope he doesn’t try too hard – the last one of those turned out to be The Ocean at The End of The Lane, which might be the best thing he’s ever done. But it’s lovely, too, to hear that he’s revisiting old places with his writing. I’m certainly not alone in wondering what makes Neverwhere’s shepherds of Shepherd's Bush exactly so dodgy, or being excited about the imminent publication of Sandman: Overture #1.

The next day Neil gave an empowering and beautiful speech in London about literacy and the power of reading and why our government is failing our children, and if you see a band of wild-eyed librarians bearing purposefully down on Number Ten Downing Street you can hold him partly responsible. (Seriously, it’s good – read it here.) He seems to have become more widely known recently, and I’m glad he’s using his time in the spotlight to say important things. But mostly I am glad he is writing those wonderful books, books which my children now enjoy as much as I do. Can we have him back next year?

About the writer: Kate Feld is Manchester Literature Festival's Digital Marketing Assistant.