Sunday, November 27, 2005

balancing acts and Mithras

A small clarification came in on the Ottakar's special edition -- Hi Neil, A quick response to the complaint about the price of the limited edition version of Anansi Boys avaialble at Ottakar's. The price was set by the publisher, not Ottakar's. However, we have no problem with the price, as it is a lovely piece of kit - new binding, silver edging, 1/4 bound, sturdy box with concave edging. If it was a case of just taking the dustjacket off and shoving the book in a flimsy case then I'd agree it was over-priced. But this special edition is just that - special - and certainly worth �40. Best wishes Jon

And I keep meaning to post about the Waterstones-Ottakar's takeover attempt in the UK (here's an article on it --,6903,1651774,00.html), and my personal hope that the two bookshop chains will remain separate.

Dear Neil, Do you take a tour of the US and the UK every year? Amos

No. The last real US tour before this year was 2001. (The last UK tour was 2003.)

Neil,I know you spend a lot of time on the road, especially right now promoting your most recent book, and I've gathered from your journal that at least one of your children is in boarding school. It doesn't seem like you see your family very much at all. My question is are you comfortable with that? Is your wife? Do you feel you are sacrificing your family for your career or visa versa? Do you wish you hadn't become as famous as you are but only enjoyed a moderate amount of success so you could spend more time at home? To sum it up, how do you come to terms with the balancing act that is necessary with such a demanding schedule? Sincerely, Kristina

I don't think any of the kids are at boarding school -- the older two are at college (with Mike, the oldest, a grad student with his own apartment), and only Maddy, the youngest, still at home.

I think it's a trade-off. Mostly, I don't "go to work", I set my own schedule, and much of the time I'm here, able to do anything they need. The downside is that when I do go away, whether it's a tour or just flying to New York or LA for a meeting, I'm gone (although it's always good if they can join me, and sometimes they can). I don't think it has much to do with famousness, honestly -- it's been pretty much this way for the last sixteen years. Having said that, 2005 has been a particularly odd and onerous sort of year for travel and touring; I'm glad it's almost done and don't plan to repeat it. (I try not to make the same mistakes. Wherever possible I'll go for new and different mistakes next time.)

How do I come to terms with the balancing act? I balance as much as I can, and occasionally I teeter or topple. Then I get up and start balancing again.


Really enjoyed an article on C.S. Lewis in The New Yorker
-- partly, I think, because it articulated something that started to puzzle me when I was writing "The Problem of Susan":

Yet a central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God, while his other symbolic animal is, specifically, the lowly and bedraggled donkey. The moral force of the Christian story is that the lions are all on the other side. If we had, say, a donkey, a seemingly uninspiring animal from an obscure corner of Narnia, raised as an uncouth and low-caste beast of burden, rallying the mice and rats and weasels and vultures and all the other unclean animals, and then being killed by the lions in as humiliating a manner as possible�a donkey who re�merges, to the shock even of his disciples and devotees, as the king of all creation�now, that would be a Christian allegory. A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth.

While my second favourite recent article is this one on making coloured bubbles...


Over at The Dreaming ( Lucy Anne has done a mega-update, collecting together articles and quotes and everything of recent vintage, including a bunch of stuff I'd not seen before. (I enjoyed the article on the Lenny Henry event in the Independent, and was surprised by the number of state awards Coraline is up for.)


Neil, thank you for yet another beautiful book. I hope you wrote that Chablis is red on purpose. Or did Anansi do one of his tricks on you?

Unless something's changed since I wrote it, you may want to reread the section. The Chablis being drunk is white, but Grahame Coats is longing for a red: He found a corkscrew, opened the bottle and poured himself a pale glass of wine. He drank it and, although he had never previously had much time for red wines, he found himself wishing that what he was drinking was richer and darker.

Someone else wrote in correcting me for having the Puritans landing in Florida, having I suspect misread, People forget that the children born to settlers in Florida were already old men and women when the dour Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock.

Hi Neil, I took Judith's walk this proper wintry dusk, since it's a thrown stone from my studio. Though I couldn't possibly add a word to her commentary I did post some photos and the odd drawing over at my journal.
Thanks for providing me with a fill for my voidful sunday.Very Best~Joel (of Cycling Cornish Accordion thief fame etc. etc.)

You're welcome. I hope that if the feedback on this walk is positive I can persuade Judith to do more walks for the site.

(Go and look at Joel's website, and appreciate his artwork. And you might want to check out the walk photos in the link.)

London Walks are at, and Judith does a Sherlock Holmes Walk, a Jack The Ripper Walk, and a Old Camden Town Walk (pdf file at

Hi Neil,
Sorry for being a snivelly creep first of all, but you're a genius!
Fawning out of the way, I was wondering if Stardust was being cast at the moment. I ask this because yesterday I met a young and very up-and-coming British actor in the library where I work (although strike me down if I didn't recognise him until 5 minutes after he left). He was looking for a copy of Stardust, which made me prick my ears up instantly, and we had a good conversation about your work. We talked about the following you had, recurrent themes in your work, and we discussed the fact Stardust was being made into a film. He asked me if I felt the film would be mainstream, to which I replied I thought it would be. He said he wished to read the book for 'research' though I didn't probe further and he didn't tell me. He left with the intentions of also reading Smoke and Mirrors and Coraline, though I did tell him that he'd have to buy his own copy of Coraline as I currently had the library copy and had no intention of bringing it back.
After he left, and after I realised who he was, I wondered if he was possibly being considered for a role. I hope so, as I feel he would be excellent. If this is the case, though, I rather regret telling him that I wanted to slap you in the face because you were so talented I was consumed by bitter jealousy. Sorry. Didn't mean it.
So, is it being cast yet? And are there any people you'd like to see in the principal roles?
Cheers, Gabrielle

Hello Gabrielle. While I don't know who your up-and-coming-actor is, it's true that Matthew Vaughn's currently casting Stardust. He's looking at lots of tapes and meeting lots of people. He phones me up and talks casting a lot, and so far I'm impressed with what he's planning, and who he's going after.

I don't talk casting, especially not on other people's films. (I should say, though, that I was thrilled on Beowulf how many of the people we wanted, in an idle "wouldn't it be nice if" sort of way, we got.)