Thursday, February 12, 2004

Banana Shoes, mostly

Maddy is nine, which means we have long conversations about how embarrassing I am. In Maddy's ideal world, her parents would be invisible, inaudible, and, apart from somehow making food appear on the table, in all ways imperceptible, like the unseen servants in early versions of Beauty and the Beast. And transport would happen too. We're definitely good for transport. Although that too has its drawbacks.

There are many things I do that are embarrassing to Maddy, and frankly most of them consist of simply existing within a five mile radius of her school. The most embarrassing thing of all, though, is Having a Mini. If you've ever wanted to watch a nine year old girl do her best to squirm into nothingness, picking her up from school in a Mini will do it every time.

"Ah well," I told her tonight, as I drove her back. "You in your turn will probably one day have children to embarrass."

"What? Like YOU were embarrassed as a kid?"

"Well, certainly," I said.


"Well, for example, when I was a teenager my father had these peculiar bright orangey-yellow shoes of a very strange European design. They looked sort of like giant bananas. They were embarrassing."

"Grandpa wore Yellow Banana Shoes?"

"He said they were the most comfortable shoes he had."

"See! That's EXACTLY like you. He had banana shoes and said that they were comfortable. You've got a Mini and you think it's cool. It's EXACTLY THE SAME."

"But his banana shoes were embarrassing. Whereas my Mini..."


I suspect she's right, of course, which makes it worse.

Anyway. She's taking part in a local theatre production, which meant that this evening I took her to a local hair salon, filled with happy kids and nervous parents and smelling like ammonia, where, while I read the Les Klinger Annotated Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, her dark brown hair was dyed black. And now she is radiating contact embarrassment at merely the idea that someone (anyone) might, under some circumstances -- any circumstances -- see her, and know that her hair has been dyed black.

All my efforts to reassure her were failures. "It could have been worse."

"How? How could it POSSIBLY be worse?"

"Well, if it had been a production of Anna and the King of Norway you'd be dying it blonde. Take a lot longer, and everyone would know..."


Got home, got Maddy to bed, to discover that Captain Morgan the cat (last seen in this blog attempting to insert himself into my nose: has worked his way up from simply sitting in the bath, licking the dripping tap, to, tonight, turning the taps full on. And the bath plug turns out to be of the kind that can be put in by e.g. a small brown cat sitting on it. If he were just a little bit brighter I can see many advantages in having a cat who'd run a bath for you; as it is, I have the awful feeling that unless I replace the taps with ones a cat can't turn on, sooner or later he'll manage to flood the place.

In the meantime I've gone onto eBay and bought a couple of pet drinking fountain things, one for upstairs, one for down, in the foolish hope that he'll soon forget his new skill if it isn't needed.

Which mention of eBay reminds me. There are lots of FAQ thingies stacking up. This eBay page may not stay up for long, but while it does, it's intriguing and very strange:

Neil! I was directed to the best and most engrossing e-Bay listing I've seen in a good long while. The auction ends in just a few hours, so even if you post this, your readers likely will miss the chance to acquire the accursed object. But all the same, it's worth a read:


-- DAN


Dear Mr. Gaiman,
I am a Senior attending an all girl's boarding school in New Jersey and in several weeks I am going on a trip to Spain for two and a half weeks for our project exploration term, and I really need some new reading material for my trip, all the fantasy novels I have read are starting to blend together, and I was hoping you might have some reccomdations for me, I would love to read some more classic works so as I might have a fuller understanding of the allusions in your writing.

Eleanor Brimmer

Let's see... I'm not sure what's in print right now, but classic fantasies that shouldn't blend, and should make you happy to have read them would include Hope Mirrlees' Lud-in-the-Mist, Lord Dunsany's fantasies, both the short stories in volumes like Time and the Gods, and the longer books like The Charwoman's Shadow and The King of Elfland's Daughter, James Branch Cabell -- The High Place is a good place to start: it's the story of what might have happened if Bluebeard had woken, married, and tired of Sleeping Beauty, or Jurgen, or The Silver Stallion -- and then there are Ernest Bramah's Kai Lung stories, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books, and there's always Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Charles G Finney's The Circus of Dr Lao is, I think, back in print at present. T. H. White's Sword in the Stone and his Once and Future King remain marvellous...

They're an odd bunch of authors. If there are books in print you can probably find them through B&N or, or try DreamHaven (who are more likely to see if they have any second-hand copies in their secondhand section), or online dealers. I hope you can find some before you go to Spain, anyway... (Actually, considering that the greater part of them are public domain texts, you could even find them on the web and print them out, or get or buy them as ebooks.) is a great place to start looking for legal etexts. So is Blackmask at

Disa wanted to be wished Happy Birthday two days ago, but I forgot to put up a journal entry that day. Happy Belated birthday.

Dear Neil,

I've a question about book tours and interviews and such in general. Are they mandatory? Publishing House X accepts book for author Y, print, bind, distribute, then X tells Y "here, you're going to these cities to sign things and meet people, and you're going on these talk radio/TV/semaphore shows also." Is that how it works? Or does the author have a say in it? I mean, what if you're not a people person? It seems like a bit of a silly question, but myself being fairly introverted, and an eventual author (introvert, but optimist), I wonder about it.

Best, Adam

The author has a say in these things. No, they aren't mandatory. Many authors grumble that their publishers don't do enough to send them on tour and so forth. And you are very unlikely to find yourself plunged into it: more likely, it'll be like being a lobster in a pot: you'll do a small interview here, and a little signing with a few other people there, and slowly the water will get warmer and warmer without you noticing, and then eventually you'll be happily signing and being interviewed and going on TV and the water will be bubbling, and by then it'll be too late.

Don't worry about it. Worry about writing good stories and good books instead. That other stuff can take care of itself, in time.

If it's any consolation, I used to be terrified of the idea of going on TV; and the first time I went on TV, I forgot how to speak. Quite literally. John Lloyd, on the TV show SOUTH OF WATFORD, asked the first question, and everything just went away. And John had them turn off the cameras, told me not to worry, turned them on, and everything was fine.


It's very barely a year since I last plugged Vitamin Q here. It remains consistently the most entertaining source of trivia on the web, even though they omit William the Conqueror's posthumous explosion from their strange Royal deaths list (well, it occurred shortly after he died, but it's still my favourite goofy posthumous thing that happened to British Royalty). (The monks tried to force his rotting, corpulent body into a stone coffin too small for it, it burst, and the place was evacuated...) (honest.)