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Posted on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 8:43 a.m.

Best-selling author Neil Gaiman's appearance worth the wait for packed Michigan Theater crowd

By Jennifer Eberbach

Despite a long delay, Neil Gaiman's fans greeted him with enthusiasm at the Michigan Theater on Sunday. The best-selling writer of novels, comic books and children's books, who has also written for TV and film, made it there with enough time to pull off a full event.

At the appearance, sponsored by Nicola's Books, Gaiman read excerpts from his new novel, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller, and gave the crowd a preview of his forthcoming children's book. He did a humorous Q & A session and book signing, as well.

After his plane was delayed, the event started an hour and 45 minutes late. The audience killed time watching videos featuring Gaiman, including an interview about his TV series "Neverwhere." Some read copies of his new book. Many kept posted on his whereabouts via Twitter until he arrived.

Gaiman read from a place near the beginning of "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," which was a good introduction to the short novel. In the book, a middle-aged man recounts memories from his childhood and the girl living in a farmhouse at the end of his road named Lettie. His father's car goes missing when taken by a boarder staying at their home. He is found dead, and the death causes a ripple effect as the plot becomes more fantastical, with magical elements mixed into more realistic situations and explorations of human emotions.

The excerpt revealed Gaiman's knack for seeing things from a child's perspective. The prolific author has written numerous children's books, including "Coraline," which was made into the animated film.

An audience member asked Gaiman where he gets his ideas. "My head," he joked. "I ponder what if, or if only," he said. "I wonder what happens if a werewolf bites a goldfish. Or a chair. Moonlight hits it, it gets heavier, then you are sitting in a chair-wolf," he said as the crowd laughed.

"I daydream like anyone else. But writers are better at knowing when it's something worth holding on to," Gaiman said.

In his reading from his forthcoming children's book, a father tells of his adventures getting milk for breakfast. According to the extraordinary account, he survived getting sucked up into an alien spaceship and walking a pirate's plank, and at the end of the excerpt, he finds himself in the presence of dinosaurs.

"I want to tell kids how amazingly cool fathers are" with a book that tells of "hair-raising things that dads do," he said at the Michigan Theater.

Eric Braun of Ypsilanti, "a big comic book reader," discovered Gaiman when he read his comic book series Sandman. "I mostly know of him through his short stories, his work in comics, and his work in TV," Braun said at the signing.

When asked what he likes about Gaiman's books and short stories, Braun pointed to his sense of humor.

"First off, it's funny. It's very dry and you have to pay attention. Sometimes it won't hit you for a day or a week, or even years will go by until you reread something and you realize, that's hilarious and I missed it the first time," Braun said.

"I always get the sense that there is something going on just outside the corner of your eye, but if you turn your head fast enough you might catch it. There is a sense of a world that's just outside your view," he added.

Elan Lange of Ann Arbor has enjoyed many of Gaiman works, including Sandman, his BBC mini-series and book "Neverwhere," and others. "We did (children's fantasy novel) 'The Graveyard Book' with our book club," she said at the signing.

Lange enjoys the way Gaiman spins subject matter and themes that are "familiar," she said: "There is a pot of story. There are all of these familiar things in that soup pot. You throw things in and draw things out, and it just keeps cooking. But (the way he writes) there is always something a little bit different or a twist on familiar things."


Jenn McKee

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 5:18 p.m.

I felt a little let down by the end of "Ocean," but I had a great time reading it. I think the appeal of Gaiman's work for me is the marriage of reality to the fantastical, in a way that's both haunting and, at times, quirky. No navel-gazing occurs, even in his "adult" books. There's plot, there's a story, and you're swept away. Reading Gaiman always makes me remember the wonder with which I read books as a kid. And it's lovely to re-visit that.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

One of the greatest experiences of my life. I drove nearly 5 hours from Indiana, and boy, was it worth it. Neil is a class act! Genuine, endearing, compassionate, and quite humble. It's now become even easier for me to identify with his stories. Michigan, you were great! The one and only time I've crossed your state boundaries. I enjoyed myself to the fullest, and would recommend Michigan Theater and all of its employees to anyone and everyone.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

All ticket sales included a hard-cover copy of the book. Sounds like a great deal to me.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Tickets were over $30 for the "cheap", no, I did not go.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

That was one of my favorite events at the Michigan Theatre. He's larger than life, yet very personable. I'm glad A2 was able to host an author of his caliber (thanks Nicola 's and Michigan Theatre!), but especially happy to see so many people turn up for his reading. Anyone know how many people were in the audience?

Bob Needham

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

I saw a Facebook post from the Michigan Theater yesterday that said 1,700 -- just about capacity.