I was fortunate to spend last Thursday evening in the presence of literary greatness, as Neil Gaiman came to Philadelphia as a stop on his first tour since before the pandemic.
For those who may actually be unfamiliar with Neil, he built his career on the critically acclaimed comic book series Sandman, before also becoming very well known for his poetry, children's books, and prose; many of which have also been adapted into other media. These seminal works include tales such as American Gods, Coraline, Good Omens (with the late Terry Pratchett), Stardust and countless more novels, short stories and television episodes.
Over six months ago I'd stumbled across an announcement about the tour date just before the tickets went on sale and purchased a couple seats immediately. I pretty much had my pick and opted for the first balcony row, dead center.
The friend who accompanied me is one of the tallest human beings I know... and is partially responsible for the "Imp" nickname I garnered in my school days as I looked even more diminutive than normal when I was standing next to him. I had hoped the front row I'd chosen would feature a bit more legroom than normal... but that was not the case! A kind usher saw the plight of my friend's legs uncomfortably crammed against the balcony wall and offered us the option to move to a balcony box seat. We happily accepted! Plentiful legroom, much more comfortable padded chairs... the only drawback was I believe the audio to the sides of the theater was worse and we strained to hear some of Gaiman's more soft spoken moments.
Neil was on stage for approximately 2 hours through a mix of reading published and unpublished short stories and poetry, peppered with questions submitted from the audience as well. We hung on every word.
He read "Click Clack the Rattlebag", a chapter from "Norse Mythology" featuring a delightful tale of Thor as a bride.. a couple months of his "Calendar of Tales" project, poetry highlighting the plight of refugees, and a wonderful poem examining the mythos of Batman; which he dedicated to the recently deceased Neal Adams, who was a legendary Batman artist and tireless advocate for creator's rights.
Sitting in that balcony seat with my friend I felt like we were Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets... only we had nothing to complain about or mock, as Neil was absolutely delightful from beginning to end. (Incidentally, thanks to one of the audience questions I now know that Gonzo the Great is Neil's favorite Muppet...)
There were books for sale, all pre-signed by Neil at no additional cost and I was inclined to pick up a couple souvenir's of the evening and add to my collection but upon seeing the line already wrapping around the block as we exited the theater it was an easy decision to just let it go and head for home!
My Neil Gaiman shelves are pretty well stocked already and that line saved me from spending more money!
Altogether it was a great evening. I came away feeling inspired, invigorated, and exhausted! I think pandemic life has actually decreased my tolerance for big events, crowds, and mental stimulation! I can only describe what I felt as akin to a literary version of a "food coma" as I was nearly comatose and recovering all the following day.
Here's hoping I get another crack at such a literary feast in the future...
-Bryan "the Imp" Imhoff
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