Last night, I was fortunate to attend a reading of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The reading was at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, DC and was sponsored by the Politics & Prose Bookstore.
I had not attended a reading and book signing before this event, and I am impressed with how smoothly the event was run. The line of a couple thousand people (I'm guessing here - I think the auditorium's capacity is around 2000 and the event was sold out) moved smoothly through the will call line where we were all assigned our book signing numbers (via our tickets). When it came time for the signing, they called numbers in groups of 50 to line up, and had staff assisting Mr. Gaiman with pens and getting books open and ready for signing so that things moved along smoothly. Mr. Gaiman also has a policy of allowing people with small children, pregnant women and the disabled to be part of the first group in line so that they do not have to wait hours. I have a feeling it was a very late night overall. My number was 492 and I only had to wait 2.5 hours before meeting Mr. Gaiman. I know the line numbers went up to 1500 at least (from posts on Twitter).
The reading began shortly after 7. Mr. Gaiman is witty and personable and had the crowd cheering and laughing throughout most of his talk. He chatted a bit about his experiences at book signings and then introduced his book with a quick overview of the story leading up to Chapter 4, which he then proceeded to read. Intellectually, having just read the book, I knew the prose was musical. I didn't realize how musical it was until I heard him read it, however. I have to wonder if his process of reading the book, chapter-by-chapter, aloud to his wife as he was typing it up allowed him to refine the music of his words even further.
For my review of The Ocean at The End of the Lane, check here.
After the reading, he answered questions from the audience which had been collected on index cards by the ushers while we were all finding our seats. One of my favorite questions was "Why are there so many angels in your stories?" His response (paraphrasing from memory) - "Angels are like cockroaches. I think I'm done with them and another one comes scurrying along." After he was done answering questions, he read another section from Ocean (p.32-34) which ended the reading on a light and humorous note.
Thus began the signing portion of the evening. When I got to the table, I asked Mr. Gaiman if what I had read on the Internet was true and if he was writing a sequel to American Gods. He told me that it is true that he is in the middle of a short story that focuses on Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods, and that the story is set after the events in American Gods. However, he has not yet started writing American Gods 2.
I don't recall when during the evening that this statement was made, but Gaiman stated that there is a common thread running throughout all of his works of which only he knows the full extent. THAT would make a fascinating read some day, wouldn't it?
If you get a chance to go see Mr. Gaiman do a reading/signing near you, I highly recommend getting out to see him. This was an event I would have been sorry to miss.