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Thursday, May 31, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 66

So I learned today that Chris Ewen, who is half of the Future Bible Heroes among many other things, has decided to make up for the fact that Boston is shamefully and scabbily mistreated on the upcoming signing tour (viz. by me not going there) by holding a shindig. Said shindig will be at the Man Ray club (http://www.manrayclub.com/) -- click on Special Events: it's for Over 21s. "Come dressed as your favourite Neil Gaiman character or god and enter our costume contest to win fantastic prizes". "Fetish or Costume attire only"

They'll have books on sale there (and we'll try and make sure they have signed books for sale), and so all the Boston readers (who are over the age of 21 and willing to dress up) can get together and have a good time. (Probably have a better time than you'd have had in a long line waiting for me.)

I think it's a wonderful idea. If there's anyone else out there who wants to hold a "The bastard isn't coming to [Anchorage/KansasCity/Orlando/NewOrleans etc] -- but we're going to have a party anyway" event, drop a line to Jack Womack at jack.womack@harpercollins.com, and we'll try and help (and list it in this journal). Those of you in Helsinki, Hobart, Hong Kong and other such places who want to get together and party (or even just designate a pub for an American Gods get-together) should also contact Jack. If there's enough of you, we'll make a page for you here and at the forthcoming neilgaiman.com...

...

Often people come to me and say "As a bestselling author, with many published works to your name, and a basement full of awards, most of them in need of a good polish, you must have some words of advice for the world that you wish to share."

And I do.

It's this.

If you have a 25lb long-haired calico cat whose fur is all matted into evil dreadlocks, and who is too fat to properly clean herself, do not put fresh batteries into an ancient beard-trimmer and attempt to shave her. You will only cause distress to the cat, and create a mess. There are professionals who will happily do this kind of thing, for a small fee. Leave it to them.

(This has been a public service announcement on behalf of Furball the cat, currently believed to be hiding in the attic in a severely traumatised state.)

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American Gods Blog, Post 65

I've spent the last few days doing occasional chunks of interview with a journalist named Janet Kornbluth from USA Today, about the Scifi.com Seeing Ear Theatre production of SNOW, GLASS, APPLES. The article/interview's in USA TODAY today, which means it's at

http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/ebrief.htm

(if you're reading this in a week or so, of course, it'll have crept off to some other place in the USA Today archives and you'll have to go and find it yourself.)

And if you don't know what Snow, Glass, Apples is, then you're better off going straight to the scifi.com website and listening to it. (To be honest, every site gives you more information than you need, going into it. I think when Harper do it as a CD, then all they will know is that it's a retelling of an old story..)

And -- as an additional note -- the play of Snow Glass Apples is in two parts, and they've only posted the first part this week... I can't see anywhere on the site where it says when the next bit goes up. Next week? In two weeks time?

The USA TODAY article also gives a link to americangods.com. (We actually spent more time talking about this journal, why I was doing it, what I got out of it, why I was doing it as a blog, all that, than we did about Snow, Glass, Apples. Janet may be doing an article on authors and online journals, so this place may pop up again.)

With American Gods coming out, I was hesitant to do the interview, to be honest, mostly because I remember what it was like to be a journalist. Most of the time, it felt like when I wanted to do an article or an interview, I would approach the editor and the editor would say "Mm. We've already done it/him/her." Particularly irritating when I'd wanted to write an article on Alan Moore or Art Speigelman, to be told that the paper in question couldn't do it because they'd "already done comics this year" -- and "already done comics" would normally mean they'd done an article on the 40th birthday celebrations of Desperate Dan or Korky the Kat, complete with a quote on the character's perennial popularity from a junior director at publisher D.C. Thompsons.

So let us hope that we can still get one of those nice USA Today articles on the book, when the book itself comes out.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 64

I just got backstage at the the website for the first time, and have been fascinated by the statistics. For example, did you know that the most new people who've turned up here in a day is a hair over 1200? (mostly it's about 500 new people a day.) I didn't. Did you know that 238 Finns, and 227 Brazilians read it, but only 47 Belgians? Me neither. 4 people read this journal from the Cocos Islands. I didn't even know there WERE any Cocos Islands. See how cool statistics are?

Sean Abbott at Harper Collins ebooks tells me that they are going to be doing an eomnibus of my stuff, to promote the four ebooks that will be coming out in July. SMOKE & MIRRORS will get a couple of extra stories, as a bonus, while AMERICAN GODS will get a bunch of these journal entries as its bonus.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 63

So the reviews are now coming in: a trickle at first, then around publication date there should be a flood, and then that'll die back to a trickle again.

The last time I listened to a review (good or bad) was in 1987, and it was a review of Violent Cases, my first ever graphic novel (with Dave Mckean drawing). The review said it was a good book, but it was too expensive. Dave and I took that to heart, and we went to the publisher, showed him the review, and asked him to lower the price.

So for the next two or three printings, the book was cheaper. We made a lower royalty. And no-one ever noticed or said anything, nor did anyone ever say anything when, with the next edition, the price went back up again. Which, I decided, was reason enough not to listen to reviews.

So this morning brought two reviews. One (positive) from the Summer 2001 BookForum, by Anthony Miller, who liked all the stuff on the road with gods in it but feels the book

"loses momentum when Shadow leaves the road and Gaiman turns his attention to small-town life"

and one (mixed) from an anonymous Publishers Weekly reviewer which says

"Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot ".

Which is the other reason not to listen to reviews. You'd go mad.

(My favourite line from PW: "Mere mortals will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia". My favorite from BookForum "His at once comic and melancholic imagination, and his facility for navigating the nocturnal and supernatural realms, evoke some of the great writers of the fantastic, from James Branch Cabell to Jorge Luis Borges, along with flashes of Flann O'Brien and glimpses of G. K. Chesterton.")

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Monday, May 28, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 62

For those of you in Toronto --

I hear from Felicia Quon of the cool name that the tickets for the Merrill Collection reading/signing are half gone already. As far as I know, this is the only thing happening in Toronto (last time I was there I did a signing in Chapters that went on for quite a while) so if you want to be there, or know anyone who does, call:
Merill Collection of Science Fiction at the Lillian H. Smith Library
Contact: Lorna Toolis 416.393.7748
is the info up at the Tour Dates page.

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American Gods Blog, Post 61

I'm home. Hurrah... 22 Hours on planes and in airports, and it's just nice to be in my own house, with kids all around, and I got to say things I haven't had a chance to say in two weeks, things like "What do you mean --you're going out? You've still got two English essays to finish, and a hundred-question physics test, and all that homework's due tomorrow. Of course you aren't going out."

I walked in the garden:the asparagus is high as an elephant's eye, and for that matter, so is the rhubarb. (Which is rather unnerving, actually.)

So waiting for me, when I got home, was a finished copy of American Gods.

This made me very happy.

The first thing I thought when I saw it was how much thicker it was than I'd expected. (465 pages plus about 15 pages of front matter. Or to put it another way, it's over an inch thick.) Also, how very much it looks like a real book.

The cover is lovely.

I opened it up very carefully. Black endpapers. Yum...

The first rule of new books is this: when your new book arrives, and you open it to a random page, and look at it, you will see a typo, and your heart will sink. It may be the only typo (er, typographical error) in the whole book, but you will see it immediately.

So I very carefully didn't open it to a random page. I opened it to the first page (CAVEAT, AND WARNING FOR TRAVELERS) and read that instead. Half way down the page I noticed a comma that I could have sworn used to be a full stop...

But other than that, it looks lovely. Wonderful. Really cool. I checked the Icelandic, and that was now right, and all the weird copyediting things seem to be fine. The permissions are all there on the copyright page. Along with the weirdest little library of congress filing thing I've ever seen.

This is what it says:

American gods: a novel /by Neil Gaiman -- 1st ed
p.cm
ISBN 0-380-97365-0
1.National characteristics, American -- Fiction. 2. Spiritual warfare - Fiction. 3 Ex-prisoners - Fiction. 4. Bodyguards - Fiction 5. Widowers - Fiction I. Title

And I wonder, who picks these categories? What do they base them on? I mean, while it is undoubtedly true that Shadow, our more-or-less hero, is an ex-prisoner, and that his wife is killed in a car crash early in the book; but I feel deeply sorry for anyone who goes into it looking for fiction about widowers, ex-prisoners or bodyguards; while all the people looking for the things it has in abundance, like history and geography and mythology, like dreams and confidence tricks and sacrifice, Roadside Attractions and lakes and coin magic and funeral homes go by the wayside.

Still, I like "Spiritual warfare -- Fiction." And 'National characteristics, American". I like that, too, in a weird way.

..............

Also waiting for me were the finished covers for the Harper Perennial (large format paperback) editions of SMOKE AND MIRRORS (my short story collection) and STARDUST. Which are wonderful... Stardust in particular, as it looks... well, grown-up, like a fairy tale for adults and not like a generic fantasy. (I wonder how many people bought the mass market paperback edition of Stardust, and were disappointed because it really wasn't what the cover promised -- and how many were pleasantly surprised by what they read.)

Both published, interestingly, as "Fiction".

I think that both books are going to be out and in the stores for the signing tour. Fingers crossed...

....

If (like me) you've been waiting for the promised "first chapter" and the newsletter, I'm pretty sure that Harper are just gearing to send them out, because they just had me write something telling you how busy they've been getting neilgaiman.com into shape to go and meet the public, which will be going out to those of you who are signed up for the news option.

...

And, while I think of it, May 31st is when scifi.com's Seeing Ear Theatre launches "SNOW, GLASS, APPLES" -- the play for voices I wrote based on my short story (in Smoke and Mirrors), starring Bebe Neuwirth as the Queen. She is astonishing, and was a joy to work with, and I'm looking forward to the thing going live. Brian Smith, who produced and directed this (and my story "Murder Mysteries", which, starring Brian Dennehey, went up on the scifi.com site last year, and is still up in the archives section).

Every now and again journalists and people at signings ask me what my favourite medium is, and i tell them "Radio plays". They can do so much, inside your head...

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Friday, May 25, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 60

The Rosedale signing listed on the tour schedule doesn't exist. It should read:


7/2/01 7:00 PM Roseville, MN

Barnes & Noble
2100 N. Snelling Ave.
Roseville, MN 55113
(651) 639-9256

And I'm sure they'll correct it on the tour page soon enough.

In another window, I'm doing a chat with a number of argentinians and a chilian who have just started to argue about the merits of anime. I hate it when things become surreal.

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Thursday, May 24, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 59

Down day in Buenos Aires. Way down. Still no voice to speak of -- lots of interviews scheduled for tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me. The best thing that happened today was Dave McKean emailed me his cover art for Coraline: it's elegant, strange, beautiful and really, really creepy.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 58

I'm in Argentina.

Spent today at Conrad, my publishers. I managed to do a press conference before lunch despite having no voice at all. I mean, none. Nothing. Nada. Zip. When I open my mouth this is what comes out: "... ...."

The press conference only worked because Cassius, my editor at Conrad, spent the last four days with me as my translator and all-around help. He sat next to me at every signing I've done since I got to Brazil and listened to the answers I gave to the questions people asked. He learned that, mostly, if you ask me the same question, I'll give you the same answer, or similar. And he heard those answers over and over again.

So at the press conference, they'd ask a question, like "Are you working with Terry Gilliam on the Good Omens movie?" and I would simply lean over to Cassius and whisper in his ear, like the godfather (his simile), or like a particularly large and malevolent glove puppet (mine), and mouth "Can you take this one?" and he'd do three minutes of stuff he'd heard me say whenever I was asked the question before -- and he'd say it in Portuguese, which was more than I ever could.

Then I signed lots of books for the people at Conrad, went off and ate lots of dead raw fish for lunch, and off with Cassius to the airport, where we sorted the stuff people had given me into CDs and letters (which I took with) and everything else (which he's boxing up and sending to me). He got me through obtaining my ticket, and got me checked in, while I stood and smiled and said ".... ...." from time to time. It was meant to be "Obrigado" -- Portuguese for "thanks" but nothing ever came out.

The inability to speak was a bit of a liability when it came to trying to find out why a plane to amsterdam was leaving from my gate, and why the buenos aires plane wasn't. (It was late arriving. But I got here eventually.)

So now I'm in Buenos Aires, where the french fried potato is all the vegetables there are. (I ordered the macrobiotic salad from the menu in the late night eating place we went to. It looked wonderful from the menu description -- all avocado and sprouts and stuff. The waiter explained, in Spanish, something which apparently conveyed the idea that this was simply something they put on the menu to lure in unwary tourists, and they didn't actually expect anyone ever to order it, let alone eat it. I asked what salads there were [silently and in English. Andres, who was minding me here, said it aloud and to the waiter and in spanish]. The Menu had a huge list of excitingly described salads. The waiter ran a thumb up and down the list, then pointed his thumb, hesitantly, to the "chopped up tomatoes and hearts of palm in salad cream" salad. "Is very good," he said, which someone must once have told him was the English for "This is all we have in the fridge in the kitchen". So I looked at the menu again, and decided I really didn't want to eat organs or steak, and settled in the end for some Chicken, and French fried potatoes.)

On Friday I'm told I'll be on a radio show with John Cale -- who I've spoken to on the phone, but never met (you should read his autobiography, What's Welsh For Zen? It's wonderful and Dave Mckean designed and drew and photographed it -- so tomorrow (thursday) I plan to say nothing at all. Not even whisper. I want my voice back, dammit. Otherwise Friday's radio show will consist of Cale saying sonorous and interesting things in a transatlantic Welsh accent, while I occasionally add to the mix by saying, in my own transatlantic English accent: "... ...." and "...... ......" and even, on occasion, "....... ....".

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American Gods Blog, Post 57

So now it's the day after the signing. 1,200 people were in the signing line (an attempt to cap the line was abandoned after a riot was threatened, I learned afterward) and records were broken for books sold at a signing (700 plus) and I was out of there by 11:30 at night, and that was all good.

The people were friendly. There were amazing gifts in quantity. My two phrases of Portuguese impressed everyone, and I managed to do 200 people an hour mostly because no-one really tried to stop and chat. But by the end of the signing I had utterly and completely lost my voice.

Now, a day later, I'm communicating in something between a whisper and a croak, and doing a lot of Harpo Marx style wordless stuff, and I'm hoping I can talk by the time the Argentinian signings and interviews start.

I suppose it's better that something like this happens now, rather than on the AMERICAN GODS tour.

The people at Conrad have been the finest hosts I could have hoped for, and the Brazilian people are even more enthusiastic and delightful than I remembered. If it weren't for the traffic in Sao Paolo this place would be perfect...

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Tuesday, May 22, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 56

Actually there are two other UK signings on Saturday the 14th of July: Ottakers in Norwich at 11:00am and Waterstones in Canturbury at 7:00 pm. I'll post the details when I get a chance.

Sorry about the silence. I went to Brazil and have had a difficult time getting online. Right now I'm in an office in FNAC, a book and stationary store in the heart of Sao Paolo. There's a noise coming up the stairs like the low susurrus of a horde of vandals on their way to sack a city, or possibly just the crowd at a rock concert, which seems to be the people here to get their books signed. I'm meant to do a reading first, and may perversely do an American Gods reading, or less perversely a Sandman:Dream Hunters reading (in English, not in Portuguese, although the Brazilian edition is the one I'm here for.)

Sore throat, mostly from shuting to be heard at the Rio book fair, where the background decibells were scary, and from continual interviews ever since.

Did an MTV interview today that was enormously fun.

And I have to go as the TV crew are here to interview me (45 minutes late. This is Brazilian Time, and it no longer causes me to turn a hair, although if this were the US I'd be having kittens.)

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Thursday, May 17, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 55

And this in from Lucy Ramsey at Hodder Headline -- I think this is all the UK signings now. Could be wrong...

Saturday, 7th July

1.00pm Forbidden Planet, New Oxford St., London, WC1

Monday, 9th July

1.00pm. Borders, 98 Buchanan St., Glasgow

6.30pm Waterstones, 128 Princes St., Edinburgh

Tuesday, 10th July

1.00pm Forbidden Planet, 59 Grainger St., Newcastle

7.00pm Borders, 94-96 Briggate, Leeds

Wednesday, 11th July

7.00pm Waterstones, 91 Deansgate, Manchester

Thursday, 12th July

1.00pm Andromeda, 2-5 Suffolk St., Birmingham

7.00pm Ottakars, 3 Park St., Walsall, W.Midlands

Friday, 13th July

1.00pm Waterstones, 11a Union Galleries, Bristol

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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 54

And an e-mail waiting for me on my return, from Rambling Jack Womack, the Harper Collins publicist... posting it as is for all the Los Angelenos out there...

Just talked to Jen Ramos at Book Soup in LA, and due to OVERWHELMING
RESPONSE they're changing the event venue on the 29th to their larger space,
and moving the time to an hour earlier (this works out fine within the rest
of your schedule). Books will of course be sold on-site.

So, the new specifics:

FRIDAY, JUNE 29
7:00 PM

BOOK SOUP
Speaking/Q & A/signing to take place at:
Beverly Hills Library
444 N. Rexford St.
Beverly Hills, CA
phone: 310-659-3684
(Store phone, as before)

posted by Neil Gaiman 11:45 PM


From American Gods, Chapter Five:

Calliope music played: a Strauss waltz, stirring and occasionally discordant. The wall as they entered was hung with antique carousel horses, hundreds of them, some in need of a lick of paint, others in need of a good dusting; above them hung dozens of winged angels constructed rather obviously from female store-window mannequins; some of them bared their sexless breasts; some had lost their wigs and stared baldly and blindly down from the darkness.

And then there was the carousel.

A sign proclaimed it was the largest in the world, said how much it weighed, how many thousand lightbulbs were to be found in the chandeliers that hung from it in gothic profusion, and forbade anyone from climbing on it or from riding on the animals.

And such animals! Shadow stared, impressed in spite of himself, at the hundreds of full-sized creatures who circled on the platform of the carousel. Real creatures, imaginary creatures, and transformations of the two: each creature was different – he saw mermaid and merman, centaur and unicorn, elephants (one huge, one tiny), bulldog, frog and phoenix, zebra, tiger, manticore and basilisk, swans pulling a carriage, a white ox, a fox, twin walruses, even a sea serpent, all of them brightly coloured and more than real: each rode the platform as the waltz came to an end and a new waltz began. The carousel did not even slow down.

“What’s it for?” asked Shadow. “I mean, okay, world’s biggest, hundreds of animals, thousands of lightbulbs, and it goes around all the time, and no-one ever rides it.”

“It’s not there to be ridden, not by people,” said Wednesday. “It’s there to be admired. It’s there to be.”

* * *

There is nowhere in the whole world quite as strange or as special as The House on the Rock. Parts of Chapters 5 and 6 of the novel take place there -- stuff happens, and some characters get to ride the World's Largest Carousel.

Nobody's allowed to ride the World's Largest Carousel in real life. It just goes round and round and round, like something from the Weisinger-era Fortress of Solitude.

I drove for 3 hours to get there. Jeff, the photographer, had a whole crew of people waiting. First, make-up. Then, the initial set up: a double-exposure picture of me and the strange nipple-revealing shop-window dummy mannequin angels that hang from the roof of the Carousel room. (One of the photos from today will illustrate the review in the Entertainment Weekly books section.)

Then down to floor level and over to the Carousel for shots of me with the strange animals moving round and round in the background. I spent most of the time trying not to look vaguely goofy. (This is my default mode in photographs. It's not intentional. Some people tell me I take good photographs, and I have to explain that that's only because they mostly don't print the goofy ones. The infamous CBLDF iguana photo is a good example of the kind of photo that people usually don't see. Goofy.)

The best part of spending 4 hours having your photo taken is often talking to the photographer. This was kind of out of the question here -- the sheer volume of the music in the Carousel Room is initially almost unbearable; after about 20 minutes it becomes a sort of background noise and you kind of tune it out... but for the four hours of the shoot, Jeff and I communicated mostly by hand gestures of the "turn left," and "chin up" variety, because the music was so loud you couldn't hear anything, especially when all the kettle-drums started banging.

(And for the breaks Jeff was off setting up the next shot. I chatted to Dolores, his assistant, and signed her hardback of Sandman: THE WAKE. She hasn't read it yet, as she says if she does then the story will be over.)

The carousel room is the hottest room in the House on the Rock. It's the 20,000 lightbulbs from the carousel that keep it so warm, said Bill, the man on carousel duty (he's been doing it for 16 years, making sure no-one vaults the fence and climbs onto any of the animals). I was cooking in the Jonathan Carroll leather jacket.

As the shoot wound down, Jeff and I got to chat a little. "How would you like me to make you look?" he asked. "Brooding, mysterious, scary, friendly -- what kind of impression are you trying to give?"

I thought for a moment, and realised that I had no idea. "Could you make me look surprisingly fuckable for a writer, please?"

He laughed (and so did the rest of the crew) and said he'd do his best.

And we wrapped up the shoot, then I ate and drove another three hours back.

Actually, I'd settle for brooding.

Really, I'd settle for not very goofy.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 54

So, today brought an envelope, and in it, the finished book cover for American Gods. It's lovely. Big lightning bolt on the cover, gold letters, and the back cover is covered with wonderful blurbs, many of them melted down from ones already posted here. Also photo of me, with smoke in background and messy hair. Author delighted. Finished books should arrive on the 31st of May. Author excited.

Also e-mail today saying American Gods has been sold to Czechoslavakia and to France, which gives us the first two foreign sales.

The most interesting American Gods call was from the editor of the e-book edition of American Gods, which will be published at the same time as the novel, asking about what kind of things we can add to the e-book: I suggested that we add this journal...

And because none of that is very interesting, I thought I'd put up a link to some wonderful photos... here. For anyone who, like me, tends to think of the past in sepia tones...

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American Gods Blog, Post 53

Two messages from correspondents already informing me that FNAC is a french books and record chain. http://www.fnac.com/ is their website. So now we now.

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Monday, May 14, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 52

Okay. It was a Blogger problem. Which is good to know. In my naivety I thought I'd broken it.

Today was nightmarishly busy, and strange. And I think the Douglas thing shook me up a lot more than I had realised.

Too many e-mails asking for 'appreciations' on Douglas, or quotes on his death ("Why me?" "You wrote the book about him.") Most of the time I just sent them here, and told them to use what they wanted.

Wednesday, I drive down to the House on the Rock for the photo session for Entertainment Weekly.

Friday I go to Brazil -- I'll be at a book fair in Rio on Saturday and Sunday (signings), then to Sao Paulo -- Tuesday evening is a signing at FNAC. (What is FNAC? I do not know. See how exciting this is?)

Then to Buenos Aires (it's in Argentina. You knew that.) Details on what I'm doing there as they come. Then back to the US.

By the way, the UK tour dates (and the US dates) are on the May 4th blog entry -- you'll need to go to archives to see them.

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Sunday, May 13, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 51

Now we're getting nothing but Error 210s. It's making posting anything astonishingly frustrating. Not to mention time consuming and practically impossible.

Spent a large chunk of yesterday replying to fanmail. (I always try to answer it. It goes into a box, and three or four times a year I clean out the box, scrawling postcards that answer questions & say thank you as best I can in the room on the back of a postcard.) I don't do it as often as I should, and get a wholly disproportionate sense of accomplishment when it's all replied to, and the box is filled with postcards.

And I pulled out my copy of Don't Panic (the original Titan edition of 1987, not the reissue that Dave Dickson wrote extra chapters for at the end, nor the US Pocket Books edition where page 42 – which we’d left intentionally blank because the first time I’d printed out the book page 42 was [not on purpose, just a glitch from whatever computer program I was using to word process in those dim dark days] a blank piece of paper with “page 42” on it, and that seemed improbable enough to be some kind of a sign – on the US Pocket Books edition Page 42 was just part of the book... ) and I read the book I'd written fourteen years ago, and heard Douglas’s voice all the way through it, affable, baffled, warm and dry.

There are worse ways to say goodbye. And it may have been a strange one, but it worked, and we take our goodbyes where we can.

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Saturday, May 12, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 50

Blogger is being very strange currently. I'm seeing all manner of interesting error messages, and am hoping that, sooner or later, I can get some of these posts to go up. (No luck yet, though I've graduated from the 'runtime 104' error messages to 'msxml3.dll error '80072f78' which seems like a step up.)

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American Gods Blog, Post 49

I was doing a telephone interview about American Gods when I saw it on the screen. The interviewer was in Tokyo where it was gone 1:30 am.

For a weird moment I thought it was a joke, then I realised it wasn't.

"Douglas Adams is dead," I said.

"Yes," said the interviewer. "I know. Did you ever meet him?"

I said yes. And I was obviously shaken enough that the interviewer offered to stop for half an hour, and I said no, it was fine, we should carry on.

After that the interview was pretty much a bust. Or at least, I don't remember anything else that was said. (Sorry, Justin.)

I'd known Douglas fairly well in the 80s -- interviewed him originally for Penthouse then used the leftover material in a dozen other magazines, then in 1987 I wrote "Don't Panic -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion" for Titan Books, which involved lots more interviews with Douglas and his friends and colleagues, and lots more spending time in his flat going through his files and archives looking for cool stuff.

Saw him at David Gilmour's 50th birthday party, in 1996, and I told him how the Neverwhere TV series was going, and he said at least it wouldn't be the same experience he'd had with the Hitchhiker TV series, but it was.

Saw him in Minneapolis a couple of years ago for a signing for the Starship Titanic game. (Only a dozen people came to the signing. He started out by demonstrating the game, but it kept crashing and he couldn't get out of one of the opening sequences. It was kind of sad.) He'd previously asked me to work on a radio adaptation of the later Hitchhiker's Books, and I'd said no as I didn't have the time.

We'd e-mail from time to time.

He was a very brilliant man. (Not said lightly. I think he really was one of those astonishingly rare people who saw things differently and more clearly and from a different angle.) I don't think he liked the process of writing very much to begin with, and I think he liked it less and less as time went on. Probably, he wasn't meant to be a writer. I'm not sure that he ever figured out what it was that he did want to do; I suspect it's something they don't have a concept for yet, let alone a name -- and if he'd been around when this thing was around (World Designer? Explainer?) he would have done it brilliantly.

(I hope that his death isn't followed by the publishing of all the stuff he hadn't wanted to see print.)

He was immensely kind and generous, with his time and his material, to a young journalist, over 15 years ago; and watching how he, and how Alan Moore (who I met around the same time), treated their fans and other people – graciously, kindly and generously – taught that young journalist an awful lot about how famous authors ought to behave. And how most of them don’t.

& I'll miss him.

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Friday, May 11, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 48

Got my hair cut by the wonderful Wendy from Hair Police (particularly wonderful as she didn't grumble that I was almost half an hour late), then stopped in to say hello to Greg Ketter at Dreamhaven Books, to discuss the new series of spoken word CDs. (Regular readers of this journal will have noticed me recording the material for the first two CDs last week.) We were trying to figureout how long it would be before they could be released, and it's going to be a little while -- probably not till the end of the year. Greg mentioned how frustrating it is that Warning: Contains Language now goes for $100 on e-bay, and I said "Well, could we just print up a few to tide us over until we can get the new ones out...?"

Greg made a phone call. "We can have some in two weeks," he said, mildly astonished. So we're doing a small print run -- about a thousand copies -- of Warning. It's a double CD, and I hope it will be for sale at the various stops on the signing tour, and through DreamHaven. I don't know if Greg's doing enough that he'll be offering it through Amazon.com, or into the comic stores through Diamond. We'll see.

But you will be able to get copies, for a little while. And then after that the CDs on there will become part of the new Audio CD series.

So that's news.

And yesterday I got an e-mail from my agent saying that Harper have just bought the electronic book rights to American Gods (no advance. The e-retailer takes half, and Harper and I split the remaining half). And then they asked if they could do the rest of the books in the same way, and we said yes.

(That's not really news. But it's interesting.)

And I got home to find an e-mail telling me that it's been announced that David Goyer is adapting and directing a movie based on my short story Murder Mysteries for Dimension films -- something that's been in the works for several years, and has just come to fruition.

I wish David much luck.... (Thinks: I hope they do Private Eye Angel toys.)

And that's all the news for this afternoon.

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Thursday, May 10, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 47

So next week I get my photograph taken for Entertainment Weekly. It looks a lot like it will happen at the House on the Rock, after hours, so I may, like my characters, get to ride The World’s Largest Carousel.

Which, whatever happens or doesn’t happen will probably be more fun, or at least, significantly less smoky, than the author photograph session for American Gods, last December.

Now, every now and again I do something really stupid.

For example, when I started writing American Gods, I swore a mighty oath that I’d not cut my hair or shave my beard until I finished it. By March 2000 I was starting to look like a hassidic terrorist, and somewhere in there I said “Sod it,” and shaved off the beard.

But the hair kept growing. I wasn’t going to get a haircut until I’d finished writing American Gods.

When I tell people about this, they look at me as if I’m really weird, except for the Norwegians who tell me about one of their early kings who didn’t shave or cut his hair until he’d united Norway.( And he didn’t wash either. At least I still bathed.) So the Norwegians don’t think I’m weird.

Anyway, my hair grew and grew (it does that, and whenever I’m tempted to grumble I remember all the people of my generation who would be only too pleased to have hair that grows too fast, or any kind of hair really), and finally it was last October and people who didn’t know me were making Howard Stern jokes when they passed me in the street. And I was going to go on a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Reading Tour...

So I finished the book. In first draft, anyway. And I went and visited Wendy at Hair Police in Minneapolis, and got my first haircut in 18 months; and then I went off on the CBLDF reading tour and raised many tens of thousands for freedom of speech, and this was a good thing. (Somewhere in there I talked Chris Oarr from the defense fund out of auctioning off my cut-off hair for charity.)

(You know, this would be much more fun if I could illustrate it with photos. Maybe when we put up the neilgaiman.com site I will.)

So I had short hair and nobody made Howard Stern jokes any more.

Now, author photos are weird things. For example, take the Good Omens photo session, in 1989, where Terry Pratchett and I were taken to a graveyard on the coldest day of the year. The expressions on our faces – variously described as brooding, intelligent, and mysterious, and by the Times of London no less, as sinister – are simply cold. (I was relatively okay. I had a leather jacket on. Terry wore an extremely lightweight jacket he’d borrowed from Malcolm Edwards, because the notion of the authors dressed respectively in black and in white. I was black.)

The easiest author photos have been the various Kelli Bickman photos taken over the years, including my favourite, the Smoke and Mirrors back cover photo, with its infinite regression of authors on a TV screen. But Kelli’s taking fewer photos these days, and is concentrating more on her artwork. (She’s MTV Featured Artist currently... you can see some of her artwork at www.kellibickman.net)

The hardest was the one in the UK in 1996 for Wired Magazine. The photo you may have seen from that session is the one of me holding a glowing book. The one you’ve not seen was the one of me, naked and wearing angel wings surrounded by candles. The one that I still remember with loathing was the one that wound up on the cover of Wired: it was me covered in sand. (A visual pun: Sandman. Yes?) And I would like to give a tip for young photographers who may want to attempt this shot.

Do not use builder’s sand. It may be cheap, but it burns the skin.

Trust me on this. I’ve been there. I know.

The American Gods photo session was nowhere near that painful.

I still think I may have messed everything up by having a haircut.

The photographer was a very nice lady named Sigrid Estrada.

(Kelly Notaras, my editor Jennifer Hershey’s right-hand woman took me down there. Jennifer herself, and my literary agent Merrilee Heifetz wandered along during the course of the afternoon.)

Sigrid took one look at me and said “I thought you were going to have longer hair.”

She looked very disappointed.

“No,” I said, apologetically. “I don’t.”

She sighed. She shook her head. I never quite found out why this messed things up as much as it obviously had.

Sigrid had a plan for a photo. The plan involved a lot of smoke. Her assistant held the smoke machine. Kelly Notaras was drafted in to hold a piece of cardboard to waft the smoke. And I stood there while Sigrid shouted “Smoke!” at the assistant holding the smoke machine, and the machine would belch huge gusts of white fog at me, and then she’d call “Waft!” at Kelly and Kelly would wave the paper and try to get the smoke off my face.

And that’s what we did for the next four or five hours. We did it with my leather jacket on. We did it with my leather jacket off. We did it with me standing up. We did it with me sitting down. We did it with me peering coyly from around the side of a huge sheet of paper. And all through this, the smoke was belched, and then the smoke was wafted. (Jennifer did some fine smoke wafting, too.)

Merrilee exerted an agent’s traditional prerogative and ran up between smoke belches and tried to tame the hair on my forehead. It didn’t tame, but she did her best.

And I began to understand what a kipper must feel like, at the precise moment it stops just being a herring, and realises that it has been smoked. For me that moment occurred at the point where Sigrid decided that it might be more... more whatever she was going for... if the smoke was splurted directly at my head, rather than just generally belched out around waist level.

I’d hold my breath and smile and be told that I shouldn’t smile, not for the kind of photo that Sigrid had in mind. So I’d stop smiling, and the smoke would splurt and Kelly or Jennifer would waft it and Sigrid would click away.

Days would pass before the taste of the smoke machine finally left the back of my throat. Still, it could have been much worse. There was no builder’s sand involved, nor was I being warned not to get too close to the candles or my wings would go up like tinder and burn my bare skin.

So a few weeks passed, and one day the contact sheets arrived. Lots and lots of photos of me. And smoke.

My son took one look at the contact sheet and said “Was your head on fire?”

“No,” I said.

“It just looked like it was, that was all.”

And he was right. All the smoke being let off at head level had managed to create a set of photos in which it was perfectly obvious that my head was indeed on fire.

Claudia Gonson (of the Magnetic Fields) was staying with us over Christmas. I showed her the contact sheet.

“They make you look like your head’s on fire,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “It’s a special effect.”

“And all the ones of you not wearing the leather jacket make you look like David Copperfield.”

“Yes. That’s a special effect too.”

“You don’t want to look like David Copperfield, do you?”

“No, thank you. Let’s stick with the ones with me with a jacket on.”

We picked one black and white photo, and one colour picture. The best thing about the black and white photo was the smoke in the background, which, far from looking like my head (or indeed any part of me) was on fire, looked instead like a mysterious sort of background, which might be clouds or mountains or, well, anything really.

(You can see one at http://www.codysbooks.com/index.jsp, while the figure of me from that picture, much photoshopped, is up on the front page of this website.)

I think they’re pretty good photos. I still feel vaguely guilty about getting the haircut, though. I just wonder what Ingrid could have done, if my hair had been longer. And whether whatever it was would have required quite so much smoke.

............................

And I promised I'd post the info on the Neil Gaiman/ Magnetic Fields gig: it's all here -- http://www.bottomlinecabaret.com/ -- although I'll be reading from a lot more than American Gods.

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American Gods Blog, Post 46

And here are the three Canadian Dates, with information from Harper Collins Canada publicist Felicia Quon (isn't that a great name?):

Toronto, ON
Monday, July 23
The Merrill Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy
Toronto Public Library
239 College Street
'7:00 pm
For tickets contact: Merrill Collection 416.393.7748

Vancouver, BC
Tuesday, July 24
Virgin Record Megastore
788 Burrard Street
7:00 pm
For tickets contact Virgin Records 604.669.2289

Victoria, BC
Wednesday July 25
7:30 pm.
Bolens Books Event
held at Open Space Gallery, 510 Fort Street
For tickets contact: Bolen Books at 250.595.4232

I'm not quite certain what the 'for tickets' means in the case of a Virgin Megastore. My guess is that I'll be doing readings and Q&As in each place, as well as signing, but I may be wrong.

I don't quite know what'll be happening in Toronto, but for now I'd strongly suggest anyone who wants to come calls the Merrill collection people and gets a ticket ASAP: I've spoken at the Merrill Collection before, and I remember it as not seating more than about 400 people, and the inhabitants of Toronto tend to be among the most enthusiastic on the face of the planet (or at least, they turn up in astonishing numbers).

Picked up the latest LOCUS (April, I think -- good interview with John Crowley and he's on the cover) and was amused to discover several photos of me with (and without) the Florida Beard alluded to in earlier posts in it.

Next one of these will be about tour planning I think.

Next week I'm getting my photo taken by Entertainment Weekly, so I promise I'll write my photo stuff before then. Honest.

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Monday, May 07, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 45

The nice people at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego e-mailed me to tell me that their phone number is in fact
800-811-4747 and not whatever I posted here earlier.

Really what this web site needs is a page of tour dates. (I think the good people at Authors on the web are probably toiling day in and night to get Neilgaiman.com up and running before publication date. But I'll see if I can get it to happen.)

5,500 Limited signature pages have been signed (and many of them have been doodled on). This is an extra 10% to allow for spoilage, slippage, crashage, rippage and someone at the bindery spilling coffee on them. I don't know if they'll obsessively destroy the extra 500 if no coffee is spilled, or if they'll creep into the system. Possibly the latter -- but seeing that no-one's actually paying anything extra for the signed copies, which will (as I said yesterday) go out with the unsigned ones, I'm not going to give it another thought.

I asked my publishers today if they had any spare copies of American Gods in proof as I had a few people I wanted to get copies to, and they laughed at me. Hollowly. So at least in proof stage, it's proving popular.

A couple of people who read this site asked at the Nebulas what the easiest way to get questions to me would be (if there were things I'd posted they wanted clarifed or whatever). Either e-mail to the nice people who run the inkwell.vue area of the Well, or if you have Compuserve access come and find me in the Literary Forum -- they've given me a whole little topic to myself there.

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Sunday, May 06, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 44

I'm starting to feel faintly cursed.

Tonight I thought, well, I've signed about 4,000 of these title pages -- decorating many of them with little drawings, doodles, staring eyes, portraits of Uncle Sam, and, following a slight accident this afternoon with a bottle of ink, fingerprints -- I'll stop and do a blogger entry. I'll tell the story of my day being photographed for the back cover shot.

So I turned on the notebook computer, and listened as the charging cord made an interesting sputtering sound and an even more interesting burning-electrical-things smell, and then died.

It left a half-charged battery, which may just be enough to get the various files I'll need tomorrow off the computer and onto another. But it kind of put paid to my plans to write a leisurely sort of journal entry. So I signed another few hundred cover sheets instead.

This is the deal on the 5,000 signed books: bookstores can order dumpbins or risers or whatever they call them of American Gods. Ten copies of the book, a couple of the audio books, and a couple of signed ones. If you have a bookstore that has a stand of American Gods, and you know I'm not going to be signing in your area, then take a look and see if there are any signed books in there.

At my most cynical, I imagine a bunch of people driving from Barnes and Noble to Borders across America buying up the signed copies and immediately offering them on E-Bay (or hoarding them and then selling them on E-Bay).

The interviews have started. Telephone ones mostly at this point, and only one a day. Which is a good thing.

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Friday, May 04, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 43

I just got sent some of the UK signing dates. THIS ISN'T A COMPLETE LIST
(said in capitals) -- and I'll post the complete list as soon as we have
it -- but I'm posting it anyway, to let any of you in the UK who want to
come to a signing start making arrangements and plans....

Saturday, 7th July

1.00pm Forbidden Planet, New Oxford St., London, WC1

Monday, 9th July

1.00pm. Borders, 98 Buchanan St., Glasgow

6.30pm Waterstones, 128 Princes St., Edinburgh

Tuesday, 10th July

7.00pm Borders, 94-96 Briggate, Leeds

Wednesday, 11th July

7.00pm Waterstones, 91 Deansgate, Manchester

Thursday, 12th July

1.00pm Andromeda, 2-5 Suffolk St., Birmingham

7.00pm Ottakars, 3 Park St., Walsall, W.Midlands

-- Something I've encountered on my last few UK signings is stores selling
tickets to readings/signings, with the cost of the ticket coming off the
cost of the book (so you pay a pound for the reading and a pound less for
the book), and others give away tickets to limit the numbers of people
showing up. It's worth calling the shop if it's not one you know, or if
it's not local, and finding out how they do things, and if there's
anything you'll need to do to get to the signing.

And here, to save you all from paging through the archives, is the list of
US signings. (The Canadian signings, in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria,
will be posted as soon as I get them.)

..............

6/19/01 6:00 PM New York, NY
BorderChurch & Vesey Sts.
New York City 10048
(212) 839-8049

6/20/01 8:00 PM Huntington, NY
Book Revue
313 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743
(631) 271-1442

6/21/01 7:00 PM Champaign/Savoy, IL
Pages For All Ages
1201 Savoy Plaza
Savoy, IL 61874
(217) 351-7243

6/22/01 1:00 PM Evanston, IL
Stars Our Destination
705 Main St.
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 570-5925

6/22/01 8:00 PM Skokie, IL
Barnes & Noble
55 Old Orchard Center,
Skokie, IL 60077
(847) 676-2230

6/23/01 1:00 PM Lexington, KY
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington Green
161 Lexington Green Circle
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 271-5330

6/23/01 7:00 PM Dayton, OH
Books & Co.
350 E. Stroop St.
Dayton, OH 45429
(937) 297-6356

6/24/01 1:00 PM Cleveland, OH
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
The Shops at Shaker Square
13217 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 751-3300

6/25/01 4:00 PM Seattle, WA
Third Place Booksellers
17171 Bothell Way N.E.
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
(206)366-3333

6/25/01 7:00 PM Seattle, WA
University Booksellers
Keane Hall, Room 130
University of Washington Campus
Seattle, WA 98155
(206) 545-4363

6/26/01 7:30 PM Menlo Park, CA
Kepler1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 324-4321

6/27/01 1:00 PM San Francisco, CA
The Booksmith
1644 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 863-8688

6/27/01 7:30 PM Berkeley, CA
Cody2454 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
1-800-704-4336

6/28/01 12:30 PM San Diego, CA
Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92111
1-800-704-4336

6/28/01 7:00 PM Los Angeles, CA
Vroman3405 Lake Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
1-800-769-BOOK

6/29/01 8:00 PM Los Angeles, CA
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 659-3110
1-800-764-BOOK

7/1/01 2:00 PM Minneapolis, MN
DreamHaven
912 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 823-6161

7/2/01 7:00 PM Rosedale, MN
Barnes & Noble
2100 N. Snelling Ave.
Rosedale, MN 55113
(651) 639-9256

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Thursday, May 03, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 42

Oh, and it looks like the 17th of June I'll be doing a reading, along with the Magnetic Fields (who will be making music, not reading) at the Bottom Line in New York. More details as they become available (including where you call for tickets).

I'm not sure how often authors and bands do gigs together out there, but it seems like something that should happen more often. I mean, I'd love to see Hubert Selby supporting Lou Reed... (And I did once see Nico supporting John Cooper Clarke.)

And the saga of the permissions is completely over: We wound up getting permissions on pretty much everything, even the Yeats and the Frost, except for the public domain stuff and a couple of things that were short enough that fair use seemed to cover them. Total cost for permissions: $890, and I have to buy Greg Brown a really nice sushi dinner next time he's in town.

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American Gods Blog, Post 41

There. I'm home again from all the travelling, and now it's time to recharge my batteries, as I'm pretty much spent. Tonight I holed up in a small recording studio, reading short pieces (and a long one) for the next spoken word CD. More recording tomorrow night. More Avalon tomorrow. And I think I may start the second draft of DEATH as soon as that's done: it'll be more fun than waiting to see if there's a strike coming or not.

And meanwhile, let's talk about the triumvirate of KIRKUS, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY and BOOKLIST reviews (and LIBRARY JOURNAL makes up a quartet).

Overall, I'm not sure how much influence reviews have in the real world. I've seen a publisher (Workmans) get scared by a bad review in the New York Times and more or less dump a book -- but the book itself - Good Omens - has gone on to become a perennial bestseller in paperback without them. (It's just about to be reissued in the US in a new cover.) And I don't know of any other publishers who have ever reacted to reviews at all, good or bad. (They send them to you, and I think they circulate them around in-house, and they are pleased by the good ones and try very hard to keep the bad ones from you. But they don't DO anything different when faced by bad reviews, if you see what I mean.)

More to the point, I've seen books with amazing reviews, not to mention awards and enthusiastic plaudits from enormously famous writers sell the same number of books, or less, as the ones that don't get the reviews etc.

(Are sales important? Not as such, but they're the only way authors and publishers have of keeping score and comparing things: without sales you'd not know that, for example, Neverwhere in mass-market paperback was much more successful than Stardust, although Stardust did slightly better in hardcover. I suspect that Stardust will be much happier in the forthcoming 'trade paperback', the larger format, with a cover that makes it look more like a fairy tale for adults -- which it is -- and less like a generic fantasy novel -- which it certainly isn't.)

Most reviews come out when the book comes out. This is sensible, and strongly encouraged by publishers (who warn reviewers on the slips that go out with review copies not to review the book before publication date) because otherwise people cannot read a good review and then nip immediately down to the bookstore and buy a copy of two of the book.

There are exceptions to the embargo, though. PW, Kirkus, and Booklist all print their reviews a good way before the books come out, because they are reviewing for the trade: for bookstores and for libraries and for insiders. And their reviews become the Early Word on the book. (On several occasions I've had a good Kirkus review of one of my books followed up by movie and TV people calling to get hold of it, so I assume that they read it too, as a good place to go hunting for what they call 'properties' and the rest of us call 'stories'.)

Kirkus, PW and Booklist each put a star beside books they especially like. People pay a lot of attention to the stars. (If ever you've seen the phrase "Kirkus starred review" after a quote on the back of a bookjacket, that's what it meant. )

Obviously, the reviewers don't always agree. Neverwhere got a great review in Kirkus, I remember, and a stinker in PW (which said that it just showed I was a comics writer and the book would have been okay if only it had had pictures). But since then I've been very lucky with my early reviews in all the periodicals (and/or lucky with my reviewers -- BOOKLIST names its reviewers but Kirkus and (I think) PW reviewers are anonymous, and so get to utter pronouncements like the voice of God).

So today my editor, Jennifer Hershey, phoned. She was just on her way to an international book fair in Jerusalem, but wanted to call and read me something before she left the office.

It was the Kirkus Review of American Gods.

She read it to me, then she faxed me a copy.

I'll put the whole thing down here, because this is the first official review the book has got, and by this point, I hope, you're as curious as I was. Obviously, it's copyright Kirkus reviews (although I don't think they'd mind me putting it up here). It's from the May 15th edition...
....................................

An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of middle America in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist. (STARDUST 1999, etc.)

Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday ( a dead giveaway if you're up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter's offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore -- or indeed, anywhere on Earth he recognises. In dreams, he's visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet -- as well as by Laura's rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationship to Shadow's adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel's agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?

A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story -- and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman. (Author Tour.)
.................................................................

And it has a star beside it.

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