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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LOCAL MAN IN HATE MAIL OUTRAGE SHOCK FIASCO

Anything I say about it would sound like bragging, so I'll just mention that The Graveyard Book won the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and leave it at that. I couldn't be there, so Chris Riddell accepted it on my behalf, and read out what I'd asked him to read. (The Booktrust site has an interview with me about it here.)

There's a terrific article/interview in the Guardian about it (I even like the photo, even though I cannot explain the hair) at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/nov/18/neil-gaiman-graveyard-book-awards.

I will not even attempt to explain the hair. It must have known what it was doing.

The Headline for the Guardian article is

Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book buried under awards
As the fantasy world's renaissance man collects yet another award, he talks to Michelle Pauli
I quite like the "buried under awards" joke. (Although The Graveyard Book definitely hasn't won all, or even most, of the awards it's been nominated for. Margo Lanagan's wonderful Tender Morsels and Jeffrey Ford's The Shadow Year [which may be wonderful but which I haven't read yet] beat it to the World Fantasy Award, just as Graham Joyce's Memoirs of a Master Forger beat it to the August Derleth award, for example.)

When I was a journalist, one of the things that stopped me wanting to spend the rest of my life journalisting was sub-editors who made me feel embarrassed by carefully introducing mistakes or slight distortions into things I'd written, or into headlines. So I felt a twinge when I read the Daily Telegraph interview, in which I was quoted pretty accurately,
Gaiman, 49, said: "I definitely don't write like Kipling but he was a literary hero as a kid.
"I was fascinated when I first started mentioning that I thought Kipling was an amazing writer.
"I started getting – not exactly hate mail – it was more disappointed mail.
"People would tell me, 'How could a writer like you – that we like – like a fascist, an imperialist dog?' "
but with the headline of
Coraline author Neil Gaiman received 'hate mail' for liking Rudyard Kipling
Neil Gaiman, the author behind the surprise film hit Coraline, received "hate mail" for professing that Rudyard Kipling was one of his literary heroes.
I keep forgetting about the new-style sensationalist Daily Telegraph. I like the way that "not exactly hate mail... disappointed mail" in the body of the article turns into "hate mail" in the headline. And was Coraline really a surprise hit? And is mentioning the Coraline film really how the Telegraph audience would go from "Who...?" to "Oh, right, him."

...

Someone wrote to me recently asking,


Dear Mr. Gaiman,

You've often talked about the rights for readers to choose the books they want to read without censorship. What are your thoughts of a library in Kentucky firing two librarians who restricted reading materials to a child?


Raymond

I figured I'd wait until the facts were in before commenting. So, in brief:

Over in Kentucky, a library worker (not librarian) felt menaced by what she felt was the satanic sexualness of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, and kept it checked out for a year so no-one could read it. (Except her: and she had to be prayed over while she read it.) What worried this lady was,
She just didn't want this book in the Graphic Novel section, which is located next to Young Adult Fiction.
She wasn't trying to keep it from kids. She was keeping it from everyone.

Then a customer put it on order, and the computer would no longer keep it checked out to keep it off the shelves. She violated library policy by finding out who had it on order, discovered the person who wanted it was an 11 year old girl (no information has been given as to whether this was with or without parental knowledge, but I don't think that would have mattered to this lady) and she persuaded another library worker (also not a librarian) to help her stop anyone getting the book. Around this point their plan was exposed. They'd violated enough library rules and policies that they were dismissed. Strangely enough, even after they were fired, the original lady who took the book off the shelves still hasn't returned the book, which seems to me to have crossed the invisible line that separates "stopping people reading things you don't like" from "stealing".

(Incidentally, for those who haven't read it, LOEG: The Black Dossier is many things, but it isn't Lost Girls, and it certainly isn't pornography, although it has moments that comment on classic texts, including some pornographic ones. It has a couple of pin-up-y images. It's got comic-book violence in it and some realistic violence too. It has references in it to British children's fiction that an 11 year old girl in Kentucky is very unlikely to get. Pam Noles wrote an essay about race, minstrelsy and the problematic use of the Golliwogg in it. Is it a book I think an 11 year old would enjoy and get stuff out of? Depends on your 11 year old. I'm always surprised when I meet Sandman readers under the age of 13, but I've met some, and they were ready for it.)

The events are summarised at The Beat here, with a two page local newspaper article that presents a fairly balanced picture of the events here.

So my thoughts of a library in Kentucky firing two librarians who restricted reading materials to a child? I think the library did the right thing. And I think they should get their book back from the lady who stole it.

...

Over at Audiofile Magazine there's a celebration of the audiobooks of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (me): interviews with Martin Jarvis, Stephen Briggs, Nigel Planer and George Guidall talking about the ups and downs of reading us aloud. http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/epicks/1109_landingpage.html

...

Thank you to all the people who have submitted International Covers (here's the submission page) to the International Covers Page. I'll try and put a few covers here from time to time. Here's one from Russia:



This is the cover to the Russian Edition of FRAGILE THINGS, which I suppose might contain "The Witch's Headstone", or is just a very Graveyard Booky sort of a cover. [Edit to add, I just clicked on it, saw it full-size and realised they're both boys, and it's an "October in the Chair" cover.]

And finally, someone on the NPR blog wrote about Sandman. It's meant to be a nice review of the P. Craig Russell Sandman: Dream Hunters, and I think it was probably meant to be funny, but if so the author seems to have misjudged the tone, and instead just turned out a series of patronising cliches about somebody's idea of Sandman readers.

Which puzzles me, because I've met hundreds of thousands of people who read Sandman all around the world, and they look just like everyone else: all they seem to have in common is that they are intelligent bipeds capable of understanding comics, who like Sandman. Probably a lot like the person who wrote the article.

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