“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman – AND Mr. Gaiman comes to Chicago’s Music Box Theater
After 27 days on the road/in the air on a book tour that has so far caused him to lose his luggage and get stuck at the San Francisco airport after the crash of flight 214, he’s tired too.
The English-born, now-Massacusetts-residing author came to Chicago’s beloved Music Box Theater last night to read from his new book – “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” – to a sold out crowd of 800 fans.
Happily, I was one of them.
The doors opened at 6pm, and by then the line of Gaiman devotees stretched three city blocks down Chicago’s Southport corridor. As I traveled via CTA, I squeezed into the theater at 6:50 and literally walked right in and found a good seat a few rows from the back of the house. (If you’ve been to the Music Box, you know there really isn’t a BAD seat in the whole house.)
The event started a little late – Around 7:15 Mr. Gaiman took the stage to rapturous applause, and kicked off by clearing up that though this is, indeed, his last signing tour, he’s not going to vanish. He’ll still do readings and things, but he’s just done with signing. Two nights prior to Chicago, he’d signed 1,700 people’s items in Ann Arbor, which lasted until 3am. (I had two friends who were there. Fortunately, one of my friends is muy pregnant, which got her to the front of the line fast.)
He read to us from “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” his newest novel. The man has a perfect timbre for public reading. He could have read the whole book, and no one would have stopped him. Then he answered questions from the audience. No, he’s not taking over as the head writer of Doctor Who – though they’ve teased him that if he comes back to write another episode he can create his own monster. Also, he will not be taking over for Matt Smith as the next Doctor. (“I think you need an actor for that.”) Yes, he’s still friends with Tori Amos. He’s currently reading the latest Stephen King book. He’s not going anywhere after the show for drinks because he’s getting on a tour bus and going to bed – only to wake up in Nashville for another reading/signing. He spoke about sex and writer’s block and his son getting kittens.
To conclude, he read us a section from his upcoming children’s book – “Fortunately, the Milk.” The book sounds like a complete joy, and I’ll absolutely be picking it up for my husband and son to bond over once it’s released in September. It involves breakfast cereal, pirates, dinosaurs, vampires, and aliens. I’m there.
Mr. Gaiman concluded around 8:40, and took a short break. At 9:15, the signing began – and the organizers announced that the event would begin with people with disabilities, pregnant folks, and then they would go row by row starting from the front of the theater to the back.
Which meant, for me, that I was probably 650th in line – of 800 people. Clearly, I was going to be there a while. Fortunately, upon admission we’d each been given a copy of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” and cracked it open, thinking I’d read a while and see how fast the line was going.
Please note that I am an incredibly fast reader. I finished the entire book by 10:40, which is when the organizers took to the mic to let us know it would probably be 3 more hours before the last few rows would get their things signed.
I love Neil Gaiman – but not enough to stick around until 1:30am to get in line, and then to try and take the bus home. So, I packed up my stuff and swapped my book out for a pre-signed copy, and headed out.
It was a lovely evening, and well worth the $30 ticket. (The book came with the ticket, and as it’s opening retail cost is $25.99, I think it was actually a steal.) Also, we got a 20% off coupon from Unabridged Bookstore, who hosted the event. Book coupons are always good.
Re: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”
Guys, this is a simply beautiful book. The story of a man who recalls mysterious events from the summer he was seven years old, it’s 165 pages of ethereal beauty and absolute wonderment,and it goes by like a dream. There are magical people and evil monsters and the child narrator is absolutely believable. It reminded me of Gaiman’s “Coraline,” in which a regular kid realizes that the things around them aren’t normal. Gaiman said that this book was written by accident while he was missing his wife, and there’s a sense of missing someone, a longing, that pervades the book. There’s very little I can say about the book without spoiling something grand for those of you about to take this journey, so I’ll keep it brief. Every word is gold.
And I got to read the entire thing in the Music Box Theater, which is an experience I will never forget – and likely never be able to repeat.