Saturday, 3 January 2009

And then comes fear

As a Neil Gaiman fan I had a very satisfying Christmas as we received both our own copy of American Gods (which I have previously mentioned as making my all-time top ten list of favourite novels – which actually hasn’t yet made it to the full complement of ten) and Neverwhere. One brother-in-law shot to the top of favour. I also gave Mr Blithe The Graveyard Book for his immediately pre-Christmas birthday (yes I do admit to a level of self-interest there). Between them and the 700 or so pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is a marvellously meaty and fantastical read from Susanna Clark, I’ve read almost my fill in the last few weeks.

I especially enjoy reading books at the same or similar time as my children or Mr Blithe as we can discuss them and haggle over the finer nuances. Gaiman always includes interview material at the end of his book, which provides more opportunities for analysis. In the supplementary material for Neverwhere I noticed the interactive process of his writing. Neverwhere originated as a television series script and Gaiman turned it into a novel when he got frustrated at what was removed in production, along the lines of “Fine, take it out. I’ll put it back in the novel.” It was further refined and rewritten when Avon Books wanted to republish it. The version we received was the “final” and “author’s preferred” version. Mr Blithe pointed out how Gaiman seems to work alongside other writers and gets a lot of input from readers and critics including family along the way. My favourite illustration of this is when he was on a train with Terry Pratchett hashing out difficult plot points in their respective novels. I would love to have been there.

Flying with this point, I was brought back to earth by Mr Blithe’s observation that no-one has read any of my book. So he has gone off to “North America” as Blithe Boy insists on calling it with the manuscript so far tucked into his hand luggage.

Great, now I not only have to worry about intercontinental planes falling from the sky, his flying in small commuter planes to icy places and the possibility of his return to a wife finally driven around the bend by children on summer holidays, but also exposing my narrative baby to someone else’s eyes. I blame Gaiman entirely and that brother-in-law’s star is rapidly fading.

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