The main reason I first audio binge-read Neil Gaiman’s’ novels, as opposed to starting with Pratchett, Lovecraft, or Dick, was that Gaiman narrated most of his books and those narrations were available at the local library.
It was early fall 2017 in East Bay. I needed to exercise. I needed to read. I had a desk job, spending up to 12-hours-a-day in front of a computer.
Katie suggested I’d combine reading & walking with audiobooks.
“Oh, shit. Good call.”Me, remembering his wife is smarter.
I developed a huge Asana project board of all the books & authors I want to read before I go. I had my start narrowed down to four, in order:
- Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – My cousin’s pushed me to finish the series for over 20 years now. He gave me the first two, and I’m now officially through them, but still a few rows to hoe.
- H. P. Lovecraft – My brother-in-law read the fancy, commemorative-looking edition of Necronomicon while at my mother-in-law’s on vacation. He left it in her front room library. It’s baiting me to catch up with him.
- Philip K. Dick – Another coveted favorite of friends, and my brother-in-law. Dick is so cynical and edgy that he feels essential to finish. I also feel like I need to finish just to keep up with them as well. I’m fallin’ behind everyone.
- Neil Gaiman – To get the taste of my Religion degree out of my mouth, My cousin suggested Good Omens. Years later, Gaiman’s Doctor Who work was incredible, but I typically knew him for comics and children’s books. We don’t have children
(We know. We’re trying. Fuck off), and I typically don’t do comics. Then I saw the ads for American Gods on Starz. Then the opening credits on the 3rd Season of Lucifer pointed out that Lucifer Morningstar was based on writers’ development including Neil Gaiman.
As for criteria, I wanted the following:
- I wanted to do the entire bibliography.
- I wanted to do it in order.
- I wanted to use the library, either downloadable or from CDs.
“Aren’t the authors worthy of your money?”
Sure. If they could have significantly negotiated down our almost-$3k a month rent to live in Bay Area, I would have purchased their audiobook novels on the spot. Since they never offered & we never asked, we used that money to eat on occasion.
At the time, through vigorous researching Alameda County Library’s website and the access provided to Overdrive and RB Digital, Neil Gaiman ended up being the one whose novels were on Overdrive with short wait times, and he narrated them. The exception, of course, being American Gods, whose wait times I swear had a broke the app at one point. Luckily, they had CDs of it with short wait times.
That Neil Gaiman narrated them himself was an amazing component I wasn’t initially considering when I started putting the pieces together.
In the end, I still almost went to Pratchett because of the $43 CD deal I found on eBay for his entire Discworld audiobook collection. It would be a chance to finish a promise to my cousin, but I never pulled the trigger on that deal because when I did the math in my head, I couldn’t figure out how the Hell someone could ship that many CDs for such a small price, even if they were compressed files.
So, I started with Neil Gaiman, using the Wikipedia list as my guide.
The first book on the list, Good Omens, I’ve already read twice and was waiting till closer to the launch of Good Omens Amazon Prime series before I read it a third time.
The next book on the list was Neverwhere, but it wasn’t yet available. Stardust, the third on the list, was immediately ready for download. I am OCD enough that going in 1-3-2 order instead of 1-2-3 would freak me out, but Katie calmed me down.
This is the part where I should point out that if you’re starting Stardust while on a treadmill and your shin keeps cramping, start the audiobook over again when the pain subsides or you’ll be confused as fuck as to what’s going on. It’s not Neil’s fault, but your shin’s evildoin’. And, blame the treadmill, too.
Note to self: Go outside, if ever you can.
I finished the list around the summer of 2018.
After a short break, I audiobooked a few other books that have built up on other lists. Somewhere around there, Lucifer got saved by Netflix and now I HAD to know the character’s backstory.
I did something I’ve never done before: I read a comic series.
Gaiman’s era of The Sandman. I started with Overture because I could instantly download it to via Hoopla, staying up late at night like a little millennial kid reading the comics with a flashlight so Katie could sleep.
“Don’t you like to read them in order?”
I do, and I double-checked. Overture was set a year before Gaiman’s era started. It’s a circle of fourths prequel of sort according to fans and pundits. Despite its chronological placing, Gaiman has been solid on where one should start on Sandman:
But I already had it downloaded and read it that day.
Final thoughts on audio binge-reading Neil Gaiman’s novels.
I’ve been told that the difference between British and American writers is that the Brits fall onto the plot when fleshing out characters while the Yanks chicken-scratch out characters as they hack off everything unrelated to the plot. Mr. Gaiman, in this respect, is definitely British. Wonderfully so.
Most of Gaiman’s books seem to grow from the character.
It feels as if he loves his stories, but he’s in love with his characters. And, speaking as a Michael Jordan-loving, Chicago sports disciple, red-blooded American: It’s an amazing, beautiful thing. It’s that Mr.
Gaiman shares with us his characters’ souls.
He gives you insight into their normal day-to-day until you get all mushy for them. He essentially gives you a fresh-baked cookie, lets you take the time to dip it into the milk and all the evermore time savor the first bite, but as you go to take another bite, he sharply rips away the cookie, scolds your for thinking you had the right, shuts off the lights, and hides over the hills and/or far away. You spend the rest of the book looking for that fucking cookie. Once in a while, when he’s feeling completely diabolical, something better comes along and you have to make a choice. A fuckin’ choice. The diabolical bastard.
Yup, Neil Gaiman writes parables & fairy tales.
His works are covered in pixie dust & hand-knit lace, smelling of the hearth fire smoke from a hollowed-out tree with hints of moldy autumn leaves, and decorated with the most ornate of inkwell handwriting.
And his voice. Oh, that hot cocoa-by-the-fire-on-a-frozen-winter’s-night narration voice of his.
I still wake up wishing I was walking up the multi-purpose concrete sidewalks down Gleason Blvd. and back along Central Avenue, toeing the letters in his every word as the sun crept behind the Pleasanton Ridge and slipped down the shivering back of San Francisco. God, those are the nights I miss in Bay Area.
“Would you audio binge-read Neil Gaiman’s novels again?”
Hopefully. I’d be surprised otherwise.
Katie & I are desperately hoping we get to read them with children, especially our children. When they’re old enough, introduce them to his children’s novels and mountains of short stories. And as they grow, let the stories grow with them – once they’ve finished their 500 jumpshots a day chores.
No 500 jumpshot a day chores.
Damn.Katie, laying down the law to me.
Katie & I want them to experience American Gods as we did.
Together. On the road from Bay Area to Tillamook Bay, and back again. Through the mountains and valleys of the State of Jefferson and Redding at sundown, searching for a Dairy Queen within a couple of miles of the Interstate. The following morning as we head towards the pistachio fields before the heat of the day, then as I unsuccessfully, again, ask Katie to turn right onto 12 instead of left onto 680 so we can make a little drink break in Napa. On the following trip, when we sit ten minutes in the driveway before we see Grandma Ty so we can get to the end of the chapter as the light starts creeping over the coastal range. Then have them thinking about the car on the frozen lake as they nearly give their grandma a heart attack when they ask what were those deer with the ruffled collars on the side of the road south of Tillamook.
I’m holding out hope we get to do so, someday. Soon. Much sooner than this later. Read to our children. Read to them Neil Gaiman. Read to them Harry Potter. Read to them Dr. Seuss…
To bring children into the world has been an overextended sojourn of anxiety, and is slipping into a plight.