Friday, November 18, 2016

Michael's Toast

"I will leave it for others to hoist a pint to the literary influences Mr. Gaiman has had on them or on their own work. For me, it’s his inspiring lectures and tireless work on behalf of reading, literacy, and most importantly the centrality of libraries to a civilized society that command my gratitude.

His eloquence certainly speaks to me as a writer but I am also a grandparent who trusts that his own grandchildren find the joy in discovering that, as he once wrote, “libraries really are the gates to the future.” He has written of his own childhood in a wonderful local library that served as his point of departure into the broader world. A place where when he finished with the children’s section he dug right into the adult books. That mirrored my own experience, but I was doubtless thousands of miles away in a sleepy small town in central Illinois. (A difference, though, in that I had to have my parent’s written permission to check out those tempting adult books (it was the 1950s after all) which they readily gave.)

My own library discoveries included extraordinary singular travel tales by the likes of Richard Halliburton who died far too young while trying to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific; outdoor adventures penned by Jim Kjelgaard, including one of the best dog stories ever, the beloved Big Red; and a long list of titles by the nearly forgotten Mika Waltari, particularly The Egyptian. So moved by his work was I that I asked my parents to call me “Mika” from then on and not Mike as everyone did. It was so much cooler. I sent away for some bubble gum wrapper thingamajig and wrote my return address as “Mika” Norman. I was thrilled the USPS delivered whatever it was I asked for directly to our door with no questions asked.

Who knew that fifty years later I would have an Egyptian daughter-in-law?

Nearly every writer, every library patron, every “civilized” person likely has a similar story, but these are some of my own. So I toast Neil Gaiman for his writings and speeches about and advocacy for libraries everywhere and all the magic each and every one of them has tucked away inside." - Michael

Michael has always been in my life. My parents were first his publishers for his "Haunted" books and now that we are no longer in publishing my Dad acts as his agent. But with Mike it's never been a business relationship, he is practically family. It's always a joy to see him when he comes through Madison, having taught journalism for years up in River Falls, where he still lives. Thanks to Facebook and emails we are constantly keeping each other updated on everything bookish, even though I still get most excited seeing him on old Travel Channel specials talking about ghostly haunts. Keep your eyes open because you never know when a new Michael Norman book might show up on the shelves.


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