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Neil Gaiman charms at UCLA

February 5, 2010 |  7:02 pm
Neilgaiman_2007

Author Neil Gaiman read, riffed and answered audience questions at a nearly sold-out venue Thursday night at UCLA's Royce Hall. The crowd -- 1,500 or so people -- was an eclectic mix of tattooed hipsters, students, white-haired readers and other fans. 

Gaiman, who has written comic books, novels, children's books, young adult novels and screenplays (and probably something I've left out), was introduced as "the most accomplished storyteller in the English language today." The first thing out of his mouth when the applause died down? An affable, simple "Hello."

"I didn't set out to be a crossover author," Gaiman said. He read from a piece that explained his evolution as a writer. By getting started in comics, he said, he was able to write whatever he wanted: "It's a medium that people mistake for a genre." After he was done with that piece, he told a little story, then read from his Newberry- and Hugo Award-winning young adult novel "The Graveyard Book."

At one point he lost his place, unable to find the next page. There was a pause -- an extended pause. He was really, really lost. He was still lost, and the silence grew more and more awkward. "Talk amongst yourselves!" he suggested, and the room broke into relieved laughter.

Gaiman also read from "Odd and the Frost Giants," which he'd written for World Book Day -- celebrated, he told a chagrined audience, everywhere but America. Then he answered questions that the audience had written on cards.

  • His guilty pleasure? Beekeeping. He read Sherlock Holmes as a kid and thought, "Cool!"
  • Will he ever write an episode of "Dr. Who"? There was much applause. Someone shouted "YES!" Gaiman opened his mouth, said nothing, then smiled. And nodded.
  • What's his favorite thing in the world? "Amanda," he said, not needing to add her last name (Palmer),  band (Dresden Dolls), or relationship (fiancee) for this crowd. "I like Amanda. I miss her."
  • Does he write his books from beginning to end, or some other way? Beginning to end, and without using outlines, which is a little risky. "Sometimes it's like jumping out of an airplane and hoping you can knit a parachute before you crash."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times

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