Thursday, November 12, 2009

Radio! Books! Violin Lessons! Also, a haircut I do not mention anywhere in this blog!

Went in to KNOW radio station in ST Paul today and recorded an introduction to the NPR MORNING EDITION "Open Mike" piece I've been recording on audiobooks, and heard the edit. Asked them to see if they could find a bit more time in the piece for Audible founder Don Katz, who did an amazing interview and was pared down to about a sentence in the current edit. It'll go out in the next ten days, and as soon as I know when it goes out I'll put it up here. I talk to David Sedaris, Martin Jarvis, Don Katz and veteran audio producer/director Rick Harris in it.

Also popped in to DreamHaven and signed a bunch of books. The piles of books have grown so high, and the administration was proving so hard for Greg now that he is a one-man operation that I'm no longer personalising books there. But lots of signed books now in for the Holidays at DreamHaven's site.

Spent much of the rest of the day driving around, being a dad, taking a daughter and her friend to violin, all that normal sort of stuff, and listening to Martin Jarvis's Good Omens audiobook as I did so. I'm about half-way through it now. It makes me so happy, especially hearing Adam Young read in something sort of close to Martin's Just William voice. Weirdly, I found it easier to hear what I wrote and what Terry wrote than I could if I looked at the text (which I discovered a few years ago, when I proofread the Harper Collins edition). The text is a bit of a blur, after all these years, but listening I'd find myself going, "Me... Terry.... Me in first draft, Terry in second.... Terry in first draft, me in second.... My footnote to his bit.... His footnote to mine..." feeling vaguely like an archaeologist. Even spotted a couple of tiny continuity goofs we should have caught 21 years ago that I may call Terry about and correct in future editions.

(Edit to add, here's a link for iTunes for the Good Omens book that will, I am afraid, almost definitely only work in the US and territories that buy books from the US.)

I still haven't done the Big China Blog. Until I do, I should point you to Amanda's blog, at, which has many photographs of our adventures, and of us, and lots of small anecdotes.

(She has an East Coast Tour on right now -
11.12 Portland, ME
11.13 Northampton, MA
11.14 Brooklyn, NY (SOLD OUT)
11.18 Philadelphia, PA
11.19 Falls Church, VA
11.20 Carrboro, NC
11.22 Knoxville, TN.
Go see her in concert. She's a wonder live. Tell her I said hi.)

Hi Neil,

I just read about your event in January, where in you will be narrating Peter and the Wolf. My husband and I are over joyed by this. We will hopefully be bringing our three girls up to see the performance. We did have one question though. Will you be reading the original version where the wolf actually is killed, and not the "oh my goodness our kids can't hear about death" version in which they bring him to the zoo? We are both, obviously, really hopeful that being you, and not afraid to scare children (thank you for that btw) will be speaking the true to the story version in which Peter shoots the wolf and then his dead body is paraded through the town as a trophy.

Thanks for your time,

PS- Do you know if there will be tickets for the event or the reception afterwards? It will be a long drive, and it would be nice to be prepared for either staking out seats all day or having tickets in hand. (We could not find any reservation information on the website)

I'd forgotten - or never knew - that there was an alternative version. The script I was sent is the Zoo version. I'll investigate...

And no, I do not know about tickets. I will find out.

Dear Neil,

Your Web Goblin offered to post photos of Coraline pumpkins, and when they were told this, my 8 and 11-year old daughters decided to make some. Here they are, along with 2 emoticon pumpkins and a turnip.

I used them to illustrate a ghost story:

Three of the four of us were Coraline characters for Halloween. (The 11-year old went her own way as Susan Sto-Helit.)

The Other Mother is the scariest thing I've ever been for Halloween. All the children (even the 4-year olds!) knew who I was, and I elicited much nervous laughter when I offered to sew buttons in their eyes.

Thank you for being VERY SCARY INDEED

I love how many families were Coraline families, this year.

If, like me, anybody else was intrigued by your mention of Kenneth Grahame's other works and wants to read them with a minimum of searching, they'll be happy to know both 'The Golden Age' and 'Dream Days' are available for free on the always invaluable Project Gutenberg:

Thanks for mentioning them in the first place; I'm always interested in children's lit of that time that has managed to slip through my net.

- B. Bolander

What a good idea. Two very beautiful, gently funny books by the author of The Wind in the Willows. I really enjoyed them, but stylistically they are, well, out of fashion, and will not be everybody's cup of Edwardian tea. Here's a passage that describes the illustration I put up yesterday, as small children steal through the house on a midnight expedition to obtain biscuits (ie cookies, if you are American):

The Blue Room had in prehistoric times been added to by taking in a superfluous passage, and so not only had the advantage of two doors, but enabled us to get to the head of the stairs without passing the chamber wherein our dragon-aunt lay couched. It was rarely occupied, except when a casual uncle came down for the night. We entered in noiseless file, the room being plunged in darkness, except for a bright strip of moonlight on the floor, across which we must pass for our exit. On this our leading lady chose to pause, seizing the opportunity to study the hang of her new dressing-gown. Greatly satisfied thereat, she proceeded, after the feminine fashion, to peacock and to pose, pacing a minuet down the moonlit patch with an imaginary partner. This was too much for Edward's histrionic instincts, and after a moment's pause he drew his single-stick, and with flourishes meet for the occasion, strode onto the stage. A struggle ensued on approved lines, at the end of which Selina was stabbed slowly and with unction, and her corpse borne from the chamber by the ruthless cavalier. The rest of us rushed after in a clump, with capers and gesticulations of delight; the special charm of the performance lying in the necessity for its being carried out with the dumbest of dumb shows.

Once out on the dark landing, the noise of the storm without told us that we had exaggerated the necessity for silence; so, grasping the tails of each other's nightgowns even as Alpine climbers rope themselves together in perilous places, we fared stoutly down the staircase-moraine, and across the grim glacier of the hall, to where a faint glimmer from the half-open door of the drawing-room beckoned to us like friendly hostel-lights. Entering, we found that our thriftless seniors had left the sound red heart of a fire, easily coaxed into a cheerful blaze; and biscuits—a plateful—smiled at us in an encouraging sort of way, together with the halves of a lemon, already once squeezed but still suckable. The biscuits were righteously shared, the lemon segments passed from mouth to mouth; and as we squatted round the fire, its genial warmth consoling our unclad limbs, we realised that so many nocturnal perils had not been braved in vain.

"It's a funny thing," said Edward, as we chatted, "how I hate this room in the daytime. It always means having your face washed, and your hair brushed, and talking silly company talk. But to-night it's really quite jolly. Looks different, somehow."

"I never can make out," I said, "what people come here to tea for. They can have their own tea at home if they like,—they're not poor people,—with jam and things, and drink out of their saucer, and suck their fingers and enjoy themselves; but they come here from a long way off, and sit up straight with their feet off the bars of their chairs, and have one cup, and talk the same sort of stuff every time."

Selina sniffed disdainfully. "You don't know anything about it," she said. "In society you have to call on each other. It's the proper thing to do."

"Pooh! YOU'RE not in society," said Edward, politely; "and, what's more, you never will be."

"Yes, I shall, some day," retorted Selina; "but I shan't ask you to come and see me, so there!"

"Wouldn't come if you did," growled Edward.

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