Neil Gaiman was even more nonchalant than usual, perennially name-dropping despite Lenny Henry's good-natured mockery of him for it. The author can't help it - he really did write much of Anansi Boys in Tori Amos' other house in Ireland; Harvey Weisenstein really did call him up and ask him to fly in to give a half-hour presentation on just what Sandman is; he really was in Hollywood the other week watching Angelina Jolie, dressed like a Tron character and covered in hundreds of reflective dots, play Grendel's mother for the Beowulf movie he co-wrote with Dave McKean. He's in the middle of a book tour, probably rather tired from the whirlwind of activity - even if it's all very exciting, really - and this was yet another interview, although probably not quite as usual. Neil and Lenny, you see, are old friends. (May I call them that? Neil is so often simply Neil to his fans.) Most recently, Lenny Henry did some of the voice-acting for Mirrormask and did the audio book version of Anansi Boys. (At least for the UK market. I don't know if the U.S. has an unrelated audio book market or not.)
And so there they were on stage, Lenny Henry interviewing Neil Gaiman - when not teasing him mercilessly - and a good person to do it too, because not only were they old friends, but the comedian had conveniently been there at crucial, relevant moments for the various life stories which Neil related. Lenny visited Neil at the Henson estate when Neil was holed up with Dave McKean, hashing out the outline of MirrorMask, there when Neil, playing with aging puppets, found the goat handpuppet's eyelid unnervingly fall apart before his eyes. Neil first thought of the beginnings of Anansi Boys while walking behind Lenny's daughter on a bicycle, with his friend, while Lenny railed - as often - about the lack of black people in horror movies.
Lenny teased Neil about always wearing a leather jacket, and Neil recounted astonishment in frigidly air-conditioned Singaporean interviews about the same, where the inquirers shivered, goose bumps on their arms. He teased him about dropping big names in the conversation ("like an anvil") and, fanboyishly, asked after the Miracleman comics ("in partial legal limbo"). Neil had to ask him to not make any faces during one piece of exposition, or he'd never be able to finish telling it.
The interview began with Lenny reading from Anansi Boys - appropriate, given the audio book connection - and ended with Neil doing another reading, bracketing nicely.
After the interview, there were perhaps eight or ten questions taken from the audience, ending with one asking if Neil will ever draw his own comics again. (He did it once as part of a Twenty-four Hour Comic event.) He said he could and almost certainly will - but generally, why should he, when there are many talented graphic novel artists so happy to work with him? And then he said - unsure if it was public knowledge yet or not - that a graphic novel version of Coraline is currently being drawn.
Of course there was more - so much more - and it was funny and we laughed and applauded and the stories were engrossing and it was lovely escapism. I do so love watching people who love their work.
Relatedly: An article/review of MirrorMask