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The Life of P

Tag: neil gaiman (page 1 of 2)

Norse Mythology

I remember as a boy my father introducing me to myths of the Norse gods. Although they were told to me as pure fiction, they resonated with an identical primal, religious truth to the Biblical stories that pervaded my Catholic upbringing. Over time I developed a more nuanced understanding of fiction not merely as a vehicle for entertainment but a purveyor of deeper truths. Nowhere is that truer than with tales that transcend a single telling and earn the loftier title of myth. The difference may be nothing more than that they are a mongrel amalgamation of retellings, more powerful than any single story or storyteller.

Neil Gaiman’s work has always been infused with the ancient myths, particularly his most literary works, The Sandman and American Gods. Now he is releasing his retelling of the tales with which I (and he) grew up in a volume titled simply Norse Mythology. The muted black and gold cover feels less fantastic than the artwork adorning his past fictions and the black-edged paper of the signed first edition produces a sombre, earthy tome. Mjöllnir weighs heavily on the cover though the book thankfully lacks its heft.

Of course, another Gaiman book meant an another launch event and another chance to hear him speak, this time in a packed out auditorium at the Southbank Centre. The larger audience meant that the evening was host to some big announcements. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Gaiman chose to open with a reading not of the topical tale of The Master Builder (which he paraphrased as Odin deciding to build a wall around Asgard to keep the frost giants out and, essentially, making them pay for it…) but rather with Freya’s Unusual Wedding. His respect for the oral tradition that begat these tales is evident in the punchy short sentences and in the humour that suffuses his versions. They originated, he noted, in an oppressive part of the world where in the summer the sun barely set and in the winter it barely rose — in either case the solution was to get drunk and tell stories round the fire. These are stories that deserve to be told out loud.

When asked what stories he thought he would survive in the next thousand years, he saw limitation in the fact we tend to read rather than speak and retell our biggest stories. Whilst he would love to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy still being read, it would require similar study to reading Shakespeare to unpack a simple joke about digital watches and their relevance at a specific point in time during the transition from analogue to digital. Which would almost certainly ruin the joke. Instead, he decided he would be happy if, in another thousand years, we were still telling the Norse myths. Perhaps we are in an age when we contribute new ideas to an existing canon of characters and keep them moving forward, polishing, refreshing and renewing them. Think of comicbook superheroes updated for each decade, Sherlock reborn in the modern world. Gaiman himself has done so with The Sandman‘s Dream and Death being touchstones for countless modern writers exploring those same Eternal characters.

He revealed a considerable amount on various other projects too, With a lot of his work being translated into other media, it’s a great time to be a fan of his work. We saw the latest trailer for the forthcoming Starz adaptation of American Gods (which is likely to be released through Amazon Prime in the UK). Meanwhile the Good Omens film is progressing, with a director to be selected in the next month or two, followed by casting. He mused on the emotional experience of writing those characters without his co-author Pratchett to call on, a film that he wanted to see made but will never get to view. A bigger surprise was a previously unscreened trailer for an adaptation of the short story How To Talk To Girls At Parties. The story drew from his proto-punk youth in 1970s Croydon which is readily apparent on screen. It is due to be released this summer and the cast includes Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Matt Lucas. Hopefully you will see the trailer before too long, once it is polished and the sound mix finalised.

However the biggest news of the night, on which the event closed, was a simplest. Gaiman revealed that he is now a solid three chapters into writing The Seven Sisters, the sequel to Neverwhere. Cue raucous cheers and applause. It was only right that he reveal it here in London. The city has changed in the 20 years since Neverwhere, and it’s high time we returned Below.

The View From The Cheap Seats

The View From The Cheap Seats

“I fled, or at least, backed awkwardly away from journalism because I wanted the freedom to make things up. I did not want to be nailed to the truth; or to be more accurate, I wanted to be able to tell the truth without ever needing to worry about the facts.”

—Neil Gaiman, The View From The Cheap Seats

Neil Gaiman may be best known for a mind that weaves together the fantastic and the mundane in fiction but, over a career of some forty years as a writer, all the articles and introductions and speeches and essays and interviews start to add up. The View From The Cheap Seats is a hefty selection of these non-fiction works, weighing in at over 500 pages. Fittingly for the title, I find myself sat up near the rafters gazing down at a beautifully lit church, the stage simply dressed and focused around two seats. Although I saw Neil speak last year around the launch of his short story collection Trigger Warning, being in the Union Chapel drew to the surface a very different memory from seven years ago. Neil reminisces about the same night, noting that he had not sung in public since his teenage punk years until, on the second of her two nights there, his girlfriend Amanda Palmer forced him to sing with her. This time round they are married, he introduces their baby boy to the crowd and then, in fitting role-reversal, has  Amanda open with a song before he takes to the stage.

The Union ChapelDiscussing the purpose of the collection early on, Neil explains earnestly that if the reader picks up the work of just one of the many authors or musicians mentioned within then the book was worthwhile. The book is, in essence, an exploration of what Neil cares about, be it people, ideas, the literary world or the written word itself. It contains around a dozen introductions that Neil has written for other people’s work. The generosity with which he writes these stems from the desire to bring works he likes to a new audience. He also mentions a disgruntled Amanda Palmer fan who, on discovering that they were dating, bemoaned “How can she be going out with him? He’s written more introductions than books!” Not quite as scathing an insult as may have been intended — introductions are, Neil points out wryly, much shorter.

The most interesting points arising from the night relate to the proximity of art and reality. An audience member asks how often he steals ideas from real events. The answer, as any writer will know, is constantly. Neil responds that, although he always worries he might be discovered a fraud with no imagination (unlikely!), writing fiction swiftly teaches one not to feel guilty about such theft from reality else one would be forever feeling guilty. I tend to approach it from the opposite angle: writing non-fiction swiftly teaches a writer that there is fiction in everything, whether it is true or not. Scientists may take umbrage with this statement but, even when one attempts to present facts alone, the inevitable resulting oversimplification is itself a fiction.

Neil repeats an analogy offered by Amanda when comparing her almost autobiographical discography to Neil’s veiled facsimiles of places or himself. She described the process as having a blender into which they pour themselves. The difference, she said, is that she presses the button for only a second so there are still big identifiable lumps, whilst Neil holds it down for much longer crafting a more evenly blended product that is no less real. Although I write this very blog, I have often commented that several of the fictional Shards elsewhere on the site contain the truest things I have ever written about myself. It may be shrouded — blended, if you prefer — but it is there for those who wish to look. And honestly, I think it is always those kernels of truth (rather than the fiction within which they reside) that draw people in when they identify with a Shard. Fiction is simply a medium through which one can convey a truth and, perhaps, the most nuanced one we have.

The View From The Cheap Seats

Trigger Warning

“And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead.”

—Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning

Ostensibly, this post is about a book I have not yet read, the latest collection of short stories from Neil Gaiman. He is not doing the usual book tour for this launch, but whilst in London he did an interview and Q&A session at the Apple Store on Regent Street (which means they should be releasing it as a podcast at some point). This post is really a series of loosely related musings resulting from comments he made.

Trigger WarningI first heard Neil speak many years ago, when he read from Stardust — a book I already loved — and I discovered that his voice, his cadence, his intonation perfectly suited his style of writing. Since then I have tended to read his work with his delivery in mind. It was a voice that made you feel safe even as he took you into strange and dark places.

I struggle to understand why short stories are so unpopular. They seem the perfect form for the attention-deficient modern world. A few years ago, when I began to read more for pleasure again, short stories featured heavily as they were easily compatible with commuting. Neil considers himself lucky that his are profitable enough that he has been able to publish three collections but, even so, the sales figures are only a third of those for his novels. He speculated that many people find short stories frustrating because these miniature worlds vanish just as they become invested. If that is true, those people must be infuriated but the shards I produce. I can offer my sympathy if not an apology…

This collection is titled Trigger Warning because the phrase, the use of which Gaiman approves in its online origins to warn of content that might trigger PTSD, has gradually expanded to cover anything that someone might find unsettling or merely offensive. Art that leaves us disquietened has an important role and to pre-empt it with a warning reduces the artistry, dampens its potency and robs us of a valuable experience. He noted in particular that children rarely require such warnings — they are excellent at self-censorship and deciding when they are comfortable with tackling issues and when they want to back away. Forcing them, he noted with an anecdote about his eldest daughter (she liked the Goosebumps series so he proudly gave her a copy of Carrie…), has less than ideal consequences.

Gaiman is known for exploring the macabre but he describes himself as squeamish. This apparently changes when he wears his writer’s hat. He described a long conversation with a doctor friend that went into graphic detail on autopsies because he needed the information for a story and so it became fascinating rather than disgusting. When I wrote Once Removed, Jenna did me one better as I was able to watch an autopsy performed, experiencing it first hand. But then I have never described myself as squeamish. I happily tear into rare steak whilst watching zombie movies.

When asked about his own fears, Neil explained that anything which scares his characters is really a manifestation of his own fear — that is the source from which he draws (although he notes that writing characters in embarrassing situations is actually what he finds most uncomfortable). It made me wonder about my general inability to write effective horror. Even when I draw overtly on horror tropes like vampires, the characters I produce tend to be relatable if not always sympathetically described. I find I can readily explore the emotional pain of isolation or disconnection, but there is not much that I fear. It gives me a desire to explore (inwardly at least) what undiscovered fears might be lurking below the surface, if that will expand my writing range.

Just One Evelyn

A volcano and Twitter brought me to you. Do you realise how beautiful that is?

-Melissa Auf der Maur

Evelyn Evelyn on Thursday night at KOKO may be have been the best ever gig that wasn’t. The quirky music of Evelyn Evelyn is performed by the fictional titular conjoined twins (or a musical and artistic collaboration between Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley, depending on your level of suspension of disbelief). Unfortunately one of the Evelyns (Jason Webley) couldn’t make it because she (he) was stuck in the US due to the volcanic ash cloud disruption. The result was a mess. And excellent.

I have previously described Amanda Palmer gigs as being “Amanda and friends” or, in this case, Amanda and whoever she dragged through the ash cloud. Luckily for us this included the sublime Bitter Ruin. A small band from Brighton, this twosome features the incredible voice of Georgia Train, by turns equally powerful and delicate, coupled with the Spanish twang of Ben Richards’ guitar. Be sure to listen to Trust and Soldier (and if you only click one link, make it that one). I find myself already eagerly anticipating the May release of their full album. Also supporting were the disarmingly enthusiastic Robots in Disguise (who may actually be robots in disguise) and the assured Melissa Auf der Maur (who may grow on me).

In a creative solution to the missing Evelyn, the gig was punctuated by a scripted fake webcast with Jason on plane to the UK, projected on a giant screen at the back of the stage, through which he could chat to Amanda and play a couple of songs with her. To explain the extent of the range of music experience that evening I could mention the country song about Icelandic volcanic ash clouds, but it really requires just three words: ukulele Radiohead cover.

Amanda seemed to flag a little (likely through exhaustion) by the end, but returned for a superb second encore with an energetic Girl Anachronism followed by a sort of Sex Pistols karaoke, with the lyrics to Anarchy in the UK projected as the crowd sang along, the front row (and Neil Gaiman) danced up on stage and Amanda Palmer crowd surfed. A fantastic closing given that it was conceived that very day when Amanda and Neil sat in a café as Malcolm McLaren’s funeral procession passed. Touring issues be damned, (record label) freedom clearly suits her well.

Digital Wash Up

Will the Secretary of State look back in history and see what happens to legislation that gets pushed through the House quickly, without consultation? It looks as though we could push some measure through – perhaps there will be a little stitch-up between the three Front-Bench teams – but out there, ordinary people, many of whom have only begun to realise the repercussions of the Bill, will feel totally let down by Parliament, just before a general election.

-Kate Hoey MP, House of Commons debate on the Digital Economy Bill

She is, of course, absolutely right. But she also puts me in a difficult position in that I have no desire to see the current Labour Government re-elected but, locally, she is exactly the sort of rebel MP — willing routinely to vote against her party when appropriate — that I wholeheartedly support. The party political system irritates me more each year.

You already know I support good 3D cinema and deplore poor, “cash in” 3D. The latest culprit is Clash of the Titans in which the post-production 3D was shoehorned in even less time than Alice in Wonderland. Critics have universally slated the 3D elements as greatly detracting from an otherwise — well — average film. What effect this will have on consumer tastes is uncertain since Titans certainly made a lot of money.

This all made me rather curious about the discovery that the fourth Resident Evil film (it’s become quite the franchise), Afterlife, is in 3D. Which sounds awful. Except that it’s been done properly from scratch, utilising the Fusion camera system pioneered by James Cameron. The quality of the film itself is still up in the air: I consider the first one fun videogame fluff, the second awful, and the third a surprisingly impressive atmospheric post-apocalyptic ride. I’m happy to let curiosity get the better of me when this one breaks out.

I don’t often embed videos here, but this is a rather pretty “trailer” for the forthcoming Charles Vess illustrated book of Neil Gaiman’s poem Instructions from his Fragile Things collection. It’s actually Neil reading the entire poem with an animated version of Vess’ artwork.

Amanda Palmer @ Union Chapel

Mobile PianoChatting to people queueing for the gig, we all agreed that explaining to friends what we were doing over the weekend was an impossible task. To those unfamiliar with Amanda Palmer it is difficult to convey how much more than the average gig her concerts tend to be. Event is a more appropriate word, as evidenced by the large number of elaborately garbed fans that made many of us feel horribly underdressed. On Saturday evening I saw amorous puppet replicas of Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, a mobile piano mounted upon a bizarre pedal-cycle contraption, and upon Amanda’s arrival, the top being set alight as she proceeded to play a flaming piano. Bear in mind this was all before we had even entered the venue. The photo gallery will give you some idea.

Musically her solo work is a logical progression post-Dresden Dolls. Her former band was already a stripped down two-piece affair (most arrangements were for piano, drums and vocals), describing their genre as “Brechtian Punk Cabaret”. Her solo work is arguably less Brechtian, but the punk cabaret and bare-bones sound remains in full force. It really lets the colourful wit of her sometimes playful, sometimes intense lyrics shine. Although the content of her songs may seem at odds with a church, the interior of the Union Chapel, with its gothic Victorian architecture, stunningly lit in blues and purples, was the perfect venue.

Amanda PalmerPolly Scattergood offered a good supporting set despite the limited material she has released so far. Most interesting to me was actually a stunningly honest unreleased song which suggests she has plenty more ground to cover in future albums. Amanda began both her main set and encore with a capella renditions that showcased how tightly impressive her voice can be, particularly in the emotionally charged cover of Tori Amos’ Me and a Gun. The rest of the set covered her solo album and several classic Dresden Dolls songs, as well as requests from the audience and even dipping into classical piano (mostly as a challenge to herself). All the while an artist was painting a large canvas at the back of the stage, the resulting artwork auctioned off at the end of the gig. Such was my enthralment with the entire night that I very nearly ended up spending £350 on it (it went for £450 in the end).

It was broken up by “Ask Amanda” segments, a Q&A via written questions dropped in a box before the gig. Her genial responses covered her experiences of the English and the unfairness of dating Neil Gaiman — catching up on each other’s careers meant she handed him 3 CDs to listen to, while he passed her two large boxes of his collected works. Speaking of Neil, he was travelling with her too and took on singing duties for a tongue-in-cheek “hymn” that contrasted comically with our surroundings as the entire audience broke into (slightly nervous) laughter. Her gigs inevitably feel like “Amanda and friends”, drawing in all the interesting creative people she has recently met. It is a testament to her generous spirit that her immediate desire is to share these talented individuals with her fans, and that is what makes her a beautiful person and her performances a joy to attend.

For those interested in the music, here are Spotify links to full albums by Amanda Palmer and Polly Scattergood.

Coraline in 3D

Coraline posterCoraline the book is a magical, creepy children’s story from Neil Gaiman about a girl who finds a hidden doorway in her house that leads to another world. Coraline the film is both a wonderful translation to the screen, a work of art, and another proud testament to the fact that stop-motion animation, while dying out, is far from gone yet. I’m going to start out with a request: please do yourselves a favour and go see it soon while it’s still in 3D screens. This will be quite unlike the gimmicky effects to which you are used, with “this is the 3D bit” moments. Instead the entire thing was shot with stereoscopic cameras so it’s all just… 3D. As if that were totally normal. The difference is that it generally adds depth by moving into the screen rather than trying to burst out of it, which is when the illusion tends to break.

Given the couple of 3D trailers preceding the film, this is a tipping point. Ice Age certainly seems to have embraced it just as fully and naturally. In fact the 3D view confused me at first, my eyes straining as I struggled to take everything in at once as I normally would with a film. Instead you should look around the scene unfolding before you, focusing on one layer at a time, just as in real life. However I’m not about to start saying that this is the future for all films, because you’re losing something too: the vibrant colours do appear washed out through the polarised glasses and I suppose you lose that big screen spectacle where you can take in everything at once in a detailed 2D shot. Not to mention the unnecessary surcharge for the privilege of 3D, a bit steep for glasses they’re collecting up afterwards (okay, and a digital two-level projector, but that’s an investment).

Coraline Set DesignThere is far more to the film than this effect, of course, and more than enough to make a 2D viewing worthwhile. Stop-motion always offers something tantalisingly different from the now-standard digitally animated fare, though it is often hard to put one’s finger on. And the calibre here is the very highest, directed by the legendary Henry Sellick who also helmed The Nightmare Before Christmas (despite the fact it tends to be Tim Burton of whom people first think since his writing and design permeates much of it). The painstaking process of shooting and adjusting in individual frames is almost impossible to imagine, but the result is somehow more grounded, with more precise movements and a sense of weight. It is truer here than in Corpse Bride where, arguably, the pursuit of smooth visual perfection resulted in something that looked digital. The love and care from the team at Laika often permeate the world on display before you which is a joy to behold. As their marketing revealed, these guys are artisans. And so it is that what really sticks with you from the film are the stunning environments even moreso than the characters and story which meander through them.

Coraline - breakfastI won’t bother dealing with the “controversy” of scaring kids, since you know my thoughts. Young kids will undoubtedly be frightened from time to time by the strangely dislocated other world which Coraline discovers. The Other Mother is suitably creepy incarnation and a perfect realisation of Coraline’s adversary. Bottom line is: it’ll probably scare kids and they’ll love it. I must admit I was perplexed, however, by the Sellick’s choice in the corpulant geriatric mild nudity of Spink and Forcible’s act in the other world. While there is much for adults to enjoy, Coraline is still clearly a kids’ film so it feels awkwardly out of place. On the other hand kids may not even notice.

Shortcomings

Tomine’s genius is to strip his medium of every possible type of grandiosity or indulgence, and the result is that life itself floods in.

-Jonathan Lethem

Shortcomings

Last week I was browsing Forbidden Planet’s signed books and came across Adrian Tomine, a graphic novelist with whom I was not familiar. His real world stories revolve around relationships and immediately evoke Daniel ClowesGhost World, in both visual style and socially awkward characters, although the subject matter is slightly less offbeat. I picked up signed copies of Shortcomings and Summer Blonde and devoured them in quick succession. Particularly interesting is Tomine’s often cinematic style in which the reader feels they are watching a scene through a camera, lingering with identical panels. Scene changes are often abrupt, occuring in the middle of a line, and many conversations are joined mid-flow. From context it is always easy to extract what has been discussed previously, but the precise words are left to the reader. As contemporary fiction that just happens to use a different medium, Tomine is subtle, intelligent, easy to read and highly recommended.

While I still love my current camera lens (a Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) there are certain things it can’t do. The main issue is low-light shooting since I detest flashes. If the subject is stationary there is little problem, particularly with the lens’ image stablisation, but those of the organic variety do have a tendancy to move. The trade off is then blurry shots or dark images. In short: time for a secondary lens. It didn’t take much research to stumble upon Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.4, a prime lens (non-zoom) that is by all accounts beautifully crafted, letting in a huge amount of light and producing incredibly sharp images. Unfortunately I wouldn’t know. Nowhere in London has been able to sell me one. Because they don’t have any. If any photographers out there have a secret supplier please let me know.

A few days ago I mentioned the sudden expansion of Twitter as celebrity bloggers brought it into the mainstream. It becoming mainstream, while it may be less of a “club”, is no bad thing. The celebrities, however, might be. Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross both have extraordinary numbers of followers but, while both being intelligent and witty people, neither really seems to have that much to say. Rather their feeds are filled with drivel, mostly pandering to people who want to receive that one personal message from their célébrité du jour. I am not saying I have found the perfect balance for my own Twitter feed, but I also know that there is enough background noise in my life without needing to add these kinds of celebrity microblogs.

I do have one on my list though: Neil Gaiman. It’s not that unnecessary minutiae do not appear in his, but the majority are interesting links related to his work and that of his acquaintances. If you must include celebrities, I strongly recommend TweetDeck which lets you organise the feeds of those you are following into multiple columns so you can separate out friends for example. By default it also keeps replies and direct messages separate so you can easily identify and respond to them. TweetDeck requires the Adobe Air platform to be installed.

Let The Right Ones In

Several people have asked me whether I plan to see Twilight. Because it “has vampires”. The truth is that Twilight is a vampire film in much the same way that Titanic was a sailing film. Its purpose lies elsewhere. In fact the inclusion of vampires in the Twilight story can be viewed in only two ways: incidental or else an exploitation of a profitable subgenre. I do not intend to indulge its creators, though I am fascinated by the success of its marketing. In the States the books are undeniably popular in a Potter-esque way (by which I mean Harry, not Beatrix), though at least the boy wizard’s adventures were reasonably well written. Here, to my knowledge, they never really took off in the same way. And yet somehow the film’s marketing has convinced the public at large that this film is an event, part of a hugely popular franchise. So successfully, in fact, that it could be self-fulfilling.

Interestingly there is a vampire film I am highly anticipating, and while it too features young protagonists, it could not really be more different. Let The Right One In seems at once chilling and warm, a Swedish film about a fragile, bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar who meets a pale, peculiar girl named Eli. By the time he discovers she is a vampire, a subtle romance has already blossomed between the pair. The image of an adult trapped within the body of an eternal child has fascinated me ever since Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia, and here both the film’s brooding palette and young actors seem able to convey the disconnection beautifully.

Browse Inside: CoralineThe release of the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s delightful children’s story Coraline, directed by stop-motion master Henry Sellick, is now imminent. So to celebrate you can read the entire book online for free. Neil is certainly one of the folk who understand that giving things away for free actually serves to make more money as well as generally making everyone happier, and I suppose Harper Collins make enough out of him that they’re willing to give it a go.

On a related note, the Open Rights Group have put together a short informative video on the suggested European copyright duration extension and exactly why this won’t help artists or consumers. It’s an issue worth considering, discussing, spreading and generally opposing. Particularly in that all the major independent IP bodies who have conducted studies oppose it, and yet the European Commission has mysteriously ignored them.

American Musings

While the photos are being sorted out, here are some miscellaneous musings from my trip…

I had always assumed one of the drawbacks to city living in somewhere like London was the background noise — an incessant din which prevails throughout the night. Imagine my surprise to find that the comparably insignificant town of Natchez (and even Baton Rouge on some nights) was far louder outside, with a near deafening roar from cicadas in particular, as well as creatures of that ilk. Cicadas are particularly loud insects since their “singing” is not produced by rubbing parts of their body, but rather through clicking “timbals” in their exoskeleton, the sound being amplified by using their body as a resonance chamber.

The Coca Cola issue has become more severe now that I drink it more regularly in the UK, to the point where I actually have to avoid it in the States. Most Americans are sadly (blissfully?) unaware that they are given worse Coke than anywhere else in the world. In fairness, regular travellers aside, the rest of the world is largely unaware that US Coke is so bad either. The reason is that proper Coca Cola is sugar based, but the US variety is made with cheaper corn syrup instead. This actually spans to most soft drinks there, but the flavour is particularly noticeable in cola. You have been warned. And Americans, come try the good stuff!

Jenna and I share similar views when it comes to children’s books, both disliking the majority of modern drivel which is thrown at kids on the basis that so long as they are reading it’s a good thing. In fact bad books can even stifle their imaginations. For example Karleigh produces all sorts of stories when playing with her toy ponies but in the bookstore, were one to cave to her whims and buy the branded tie-in pony books, she tends towards reproducing the basic stories within rather than inventing her own adventures for them.

\Personally there are two things I expect from a good children’s book: inventive originality to develop imagination and avoiding talking down to children. The latter means a decent vocabulary in order to expand the child’s, as well as content with some sort of depth, which sort of ties into the first part. There is a strange idea that children’s stories need to be obvious when in fact children are often more open to parallel imagery than adults. Neil Gaiman’s books for children have always appealed to me since, as an author of adult fiction too, he does not sit down with the goal of just producing a children’s book. Rather he has various ideas some of which suit novels or comics while others work best as children’s books. I was glad to be able to buy a copy of The Wolves in the Walls, a personal favourite, for Karleigh.

On a related note, all parents should carry around notebooks to jot down those wonderful things their child comes out with (and an adult never could). I heard several Karleighisms during my trip that I’ve already forgotten and wish I had written here or elsewhere. The alternative is to attach a dictaphone to your child but that might be considered expensive, time consuming and also slightly creepy.

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"Lack of imagination is an occupational hazard for an apex predator."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2019 Priyan Meewella

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