Book Reading: Neil Gaiman, August 2002

Neil Gaiman drew me a rat. :)

Now I’m sure that hundreds, nay, thousands of people who’ve been to his Coraline signings can all brandish similar rats, but allow me the illusion that, for one moment anyway, he was drawing the rat just for me.

I last queued up to get something signed a very, very long time ago. Def Leppard (stop laughing, they’re great fun) were signing in Tower Records Singapore, and I had a greatest hits album and time to kill. A considerable time before that, there were The Artists (very loosely defined!) Formerly Known As PJ & Duncan (okay, laugh). But here there was an element of personal attention and a real awareness of what all this meant to everyone who queued up for hours for that minute of contact that I don’t remember experiencing before. The girl in front of me broke down and started crying, and he reached out and hugged her tight for a good 30 seconds or more.

I’m not trying to place Neil Gaiman on a pedestal and gush that he’s a wonderful, wonderful person, because I have no idea what sort of person he is. But the public persona he presented to us was warm and self-deprecatingly funny without sounding forced or scripted. I didn’t feel like I was on a conveyor belt, and given that I most certainly was, much appreciation goes out to Neil and the good people at Foyles for successfully pulling off that illusion.

A pleasant extra to what was already an enjoyable occasion was the astounding coincidence of me and Benny, who I’ve emailed but never seen, just happening to sit next to each other for the reading and not knowing it. Later on in the signing queue, a Foyles person was handing out slips of paper to write your name on if you wanted Neil to dedicate anything. I heard him say “Benny” behind me, turned, and stated, rather absurdly, “I think you’ve emailed me before.” He asked if I was Michelle. Mutual surprise and a lot of omigodness ensued. Even more omigodness from me when he asked me to guess who he’d run into earlier in the day, I randomly guessed DJ Shadow as a joke, and turned out to be right. OMIGOD.