Friday, November 11, 2016

Courtney's Toast

"Mister Gaiman. You should hear this toast in my flat middle western, slightly southern accent. I speak quite quick. Perhaps even fast. But my first words, Missssssttttteeerrr Gaaaaaaaimannn are slow and deliberate.

Quite odd indeed.

I should, from the start, say that I met you in graphic novels. That I was a nerdy girl pretending to be a cool nerdy girl and I wanted a comic because I am a painter and yet nothing ever appealed to me. Until Sandman.

And many hundreds of hours and mugs of strong tea and thick lattes later, you became one of my top five.

But many more eloquent writers and readers than me will talk about Sandman.

I should say I’ve read and listened to both versions of American Gods, and while I enjoy Coraline and Neverworld and The Ocean at the End of the Lane better, American Gods is a perfect book. And yet I am sure one of my friends will toast you with some little known mead and the perfect synopsis of why the tenth anniversary is indeed a better choice.

Best leave it.

Instead I want to celebrate the fact that as I write this, it is not my own voice I hear in my head (as usually I do when I write) but yours. I should find this curious but I do not. While I have read practically everything you’ve written (with the exception of the sneezing Panda books that I am saving for my soon to be niece or nephew), I have also listened to everything you’ve written.

For example, at this moment, both “A Study in Emerald,” “Wolves in the Walls,” and “Coraline,” are all downloaded in my phone. For that matter, so is “The View from the Cheap Seats.” I pick a chapter when I want to think about a writer or an idea. I pick a story when I want to be scared or entertained or frankly soothed.

But most of all?

It’s the way you tell your stories aloud. Neither reading nor performing, but telling.

I feel small and unaccountable excited as you spin out anything - interviewing Stephen King, introducing me to Dianna Wynn Jones (for which I will be always grateful), the kittens! that appear like Capra’s crows in so many books, although I did cry when the Opal Miner killed the narrator’s kitten in Ocean - and it reminds my of why books are magic. Of how hearing something I love makes my chest tight and my breath fast. How there can always be new worlds, even in the most boring of places. How books can be stories and stories are told.

Still it is your voice in my head and I think of this idea of the story. A tale you can tell for the simple and complex enjoyment of hearing it. And then I hear you read Neverwhere, and I believe, absolutely believe, that possibly this story is at least a teensy bit real. “I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.” I wanted to live in the London of two Londons. Of Ming China eating terrible scary men and bumbling heroes making it up as they go along. I never wanted it to end.

Except I definitely wanted to find out how it would end up.

So as I toast you, mug of hot chocolate in my hand, I imagine you sitting on a chair next to my bed or at the other end of the couch from me, and I know I need only wait for you to take a breath.

Then you will tell me a story.

And I will listen with a kitten on my lap.

Gaiman readers one and all, be upstanding, raise your mugs of cocoa and give thanks one and all to Mr. Gaiman’s telling of the story.

Which absolutely beats toasting the Haggis in Gaelic." - Courtney

Courtney and I have actually never met in person, but in this day and age what does that really mean? Like many of my book loving friends I first became aware of Courtney through The Rory Gilmore Book Club on Goodreads, but it wasn't until one of our mutual friends insisted we get to know each other better that we noticed a similar taste in books and television. In fact just in requesting this Gaiman toast from her I might have reignited her addiction to Helen Fielding which I also suffer from. But it is her love of the mystical and magical and Gothic that made me know my Gaiman Gala wouldn't be the same without her.


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