“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
“I'm not sure if my cereal is stale or if that's just the way it's supposed to be. And then I started wondering the same thing about my life. And then I thought maybe I should just stop thinking so much and eat my goddamned mini-wheats.”
For fans of the author Neil Gaiman, the idea of needing a beginner’s guide may sound ridiculous: he’s been a cult hero for decades. His novels, short stories, and comic books have won all kinds of awards and prizes. But, in the manner of other genre icons who amassed a specific group of fans prior to mainstream success, his omnipresence might seem sudden to many others.
“Omnipresent” is pretty accurate: He has several books coming out over the next few weeks — Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman (which came out earlier this week, on April 23), Make Good Art (May 14), How to Talk to Girls at Parties (May 18) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (June 18). A BBC radio-play adaptation of his novel Neverwhere premiered in March. And there’s more coming.
So, to clear up any confusion, let’s start with the basics:
So, who is this Neil Gaiman? And what does he do?
He’s a British-born writer who now lives in the U.S., in a town outside of Minneapolis. He started out as a journalist and wrote his first book, about the band Duran Duran, in 1984, but he’s best known for his genre work.
His break-out text was the comic book The Sandman, a 75-issue series that ran from 1989 through 1996. The epic — which takes place in the world of dreams — was among a handful of titles (along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns)that elevated comic books into the realm of real literature.
His other major works, for children and adults, include 2008′s The Graveyard Book, 2003′s Coraline, and 2002′s American Gods — all of which have won multiple awards and prizes.
“The best writing comes obviously out of a precision we do not and dare not employ when we speak, yet such writing still has the ring of speech. It is a style in short that can take you a life to achieve.”
—Norman Mailer, from Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Hallie and Whit Burnett