An Evening of Neil Gaiman and Stardust

I’ve already admitted I spent what seemed like most of November in what seemed like a perpetual state of crankiness. A lot of that crankiness kept building from various causes. I eve once snapped at Paul not to touch me when he just went to put an arm around me. He was either afraid of me or being respectful or looking out for both our best interests when he still was avoiding physical contact some days later. Whether or not my mood made sense, I can’t say he’s not a smart man.

Neil Gaiman came into Pittsburgh and gave a lecture then. I was cranky that night, too, but I don’t remember why. I’ve noticed that my inability to remember what made me cranky is common when looking back at my relationship with Paul–I can only remember the catalyst in a handful of lover’s tiffs, like I am literally forgiving and forgetting.

I wish I hadn’t been cranky. The evening would’ve been perfect otherwise. Maybe one day, I’ll look back and this blog will have long disappeared into a mess of binary and I won’t remember having been cranky that night at all.

I was impressed with our seats. I wanted the VIP package, which would’ve gotten us into a signing, but they sold out in a hot minute. My plans to hang out in the city didn’t work out, either. In fact, my plans for the city failed so hard, I didn’t even have time to go to Lulu’s for dinner like I wanted and we ended up at Subway instead. I live a hard life.

Neil drew a crowd, as I suspected. The director of the arts and lectures series (which I plan on keeping an eye on for more writerly gems) suspecting as much, too, joking that she’s only had one goal for years for the series–to get Neil Gaiman, and doing so involved convincing the powers that be that Pittsburgh would throw down mad cash in droves to see him. And we did. We were also very loud and enthusiastic.

Neil was wonderful. I didn’t really have any specific expectations, but I was a little surprised by how funny–genuinely funny–he is, as well as charming and articulate, though the latter isn’t surprising if you’ve read his books. He discussed Stardust, as it was the anniversary, and read an excerpt. Now, I was–and still am–in the process of reading Stardust for the first time. My goal was to finish it before the lecture, but much like getting VIP tickets and eating a real dinner, I failed. I obviously failed pretty miserably, too, as the lecture was in November, it’s now going to be March in 3 1/2 hours, and I still haven’t finished it, simply for lack of time. A day job and moonlighting as an editor leaves me with little time for reading (or proper writing, for that matter).

Basically, I was prepared to be spoiled, but fortunately, I wasn’t. Not really. Not epically. The only thing I had spoiled was the fact that the star in the book is a girl, a fairy, with a broken leg. I can hear you scoffing as you realize just how little progress I had made in this novel before this lecture.

(Side note: one of my new hobbies is to look up reviews of books I’m reading on Goodreads. I like to read reviews radically different from my opinion, so I read one-star reviews for books I enjoy and five-star reviews for books I don’t enjoy, meaning I’ve been reading one-star reviews for everything but fucking Fountainhead. I’ve noticed a few things about the Stardust reviews. Gaiman considers it more a female book (according to Paul, anyway), and a lot females are not pleased that they got a fairytale with sex in it because–and I’m paraphrasing but not very loosely–sex has no place in fairytales, not even adult ones. Can we stop pretending women and even humans in generally aren’t sexual beings? We literally wouldn’t even be here if not for sex. Similarly, people also seem to be unsure of what to make of the novel. Is it parody? Is it homage? I say both, but that doesn’t really matter because no matter the answer, the bottom line often ends up being something like “but sex has no place in fairytales anyway.” People also dislike that the star is just referred to as “the star” despite having a name–except she’s only referred to as “the star” until we learn her name, which fits the story and narrator and information given, not to mention the progression and characterization in which we see Tristran treat her less like a star and more like the living creature she is. She’s “the star” when he’s dragging her around on a chain as a prisoner and gift to win over a woman. As they spend time together, we learn more about her, including her name, and Tristran comes off as not being such a dick and she’s called by name from then on. Finally, it probably says a lot about me that I enjoy American Gods, the “male” book, more–and Lord, wait until I talk about those one-star reviews. Plus I was 100% okay with Stardust fairy sex, though greatly surprised, and even liked it.)

I lucked out when he read an excerpt I’d already read.

He also read an excerpt from his upcoming novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was wonderful and has me all excited. Best of all, it comes out just before my birthday. When Neil mentioned the release date, I noticed Paul immediately whipped his head right towards me and said something about my birthday–finally, he says, he knows exactly what to get me. I even made this easier by sending him a link to get me a signed preorder. It’s the only time I’ve ever said, “Look, this is what I want and where you can get it.”

The lecture also included a Q&A session, in which we were advised and enlightened and entertained further with wonderful quotes about finding adventure and writing and how you can fire a machine gun at Lord of the Rings and never hit a woman and insider information on his upcoming Dr. Who episode, which he asked us kindly not to spread all over the internet and I believe has not been spread all over the internet.

He closed by reading “The Day the Saucers Came,” which made me very happy. It’s among my all-time favorite poems. In short: I think it’s one of the most accurate representations of courtship and longing.

And hearing Neil Gaiman read “The Day the Saucers Came” in person is a great way to end a night out with your significant other, even if you’ve been cranky with him, perhaps unfairly.

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