This isn’t a book post, but tonight I had a lovely surprise. Neil Gaiman is the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Visiting Writer for 2014 and when tickets went ‘on sale’ (really they were free, but you had to reserve them because demand far exceeded supply) last October, they were all snapped up in less than 60 seconds.
But this afternoon when I checked Facebook after class, I found a message from Susan, who I spent most of last summer working with. She had come into a spare ticket for Neil Gaiman for tonight, and if I could be back at the university in about an hour, it was all mine. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work!
Neil Gaiman was absolutely fantastic. He was warm and funny, and his stories were just the right amount of creepy and spooky. He read quite a lot, including a number of short stories (Feminine Endings, Click Clack the Rattlebag and – what I think was – My Last Landlady) and a couple of good poems. But my favourite part was when he talked about a recent Q&A he did where a little kid asked him what stories are for?
Of course, he gave the kid an age-appropriate answer about how people are ‘hardwired’ to tell stories, but for the adults in tonight’s audience, he told a moving story about his grandmother, who lived in the Warsaw ghetto (and escaped just before it was burned). It was punishable by death to own books, but somehow, she had a Polish translation of Gone With The Wind (which also happens to be my very favourite book). Every night, she blocked out the windows and read for hours by candlelight – and the next morning, all the girls would rush into the room to find out what was happening next in the world of Scarlett O’Hara and Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler.
“Stories are important enough that you’d risk a bullet to the head,” he said.