cannibalize everything they are."
Gaiman has it right. We cannibalize our dreams, our memories and our emotions,
he says, and eventually, our words become stories. For Gaiman,
critically-acclaimed author of American Gods, MirrorMask and The Sandman, to name a few, the
pieces of himself he digs deep into become books — works of fiction,
children's stories, comics, poetry and plays for radio and screen. "We're
expected to choose sides between books we enjoy and books that are good for
you," he says. "But I'm all for books I love."
recounting the stories he fell in love with as a child, Gaiman introduced
himself to a few hundred of his Indianapolis-based fans — mostly Gen-X
and Gen-Y — all huddled together last Friday, April 16, in the North
Central High School auditorium. For those who stumbled upon the intimate event,
Gaiman delivered the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Foundation's
33rd Annual Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture, joining the ranks of the city's
long history of lecturers, who have included Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, John
Updike, Amy Tan, Judy Blume and others.
an overwhelming respect for the written word, Gaiman explained how books have
been part of his life since his youth, spent in Southern England. "I was a
feral child," he said, "raised by patient librarians." Gaiman relayed his time
frequenting libraries, making his way through the children's section up to
young adult and then to adult literature, where he learned how much stories are
transmissible. "You can catch them or be infected by them," he said. "They make
you feel part of the continuous flow of life."
raised his 15-year-old daughter, Maddy, on oodles of "Gaimanized" children's
stories, his lecture featured versions of his take on classic tales, such as
"Goldilocks and the Three Bears," which he read aloud for his fans. "My tummy's
always full, and there's always a girl in my bed!" Though tongue-in-cheek when
comparing himself to Baby Bear, Gaiman eloquently summarized the story: "We
make our own mistakes," he said. "Like Goldilocks, we sleep unwisely. It's our
fantasy stories, such as Coraline, originally illustrated
by Dave McKean, stem from a fascination with houses and with dreams. In 2009,
the same year Gaiman won the Newbery medal in children's literature for The
hit high definition 3-D movie theatre screens. Just for good measure, he wore
the same custom-made Kambriel jacket that he wore to the Oscars in support of Coraline to Indy's McFadden
lecture. A Friends of the Library Foundation representative told the audience
they chose him as guest speaker, because he's considered among the top ten
living post-modern American writers, encouraging young readers to become
future library supporters.
although 2009 proved successful for him, it was also a harrowing one for his
family. "My father died expectedly," Gaiman said. He didn't shed tears until
reading a work of fiction, he said, in which the character's wife passed on. "I
sobbed like an adult, finally letting go everything I was holding onto from my
for a quarter of a century, Gaiman admitted he's never created a story to get
people through the hard times. "I write because I wanted to find out what will
happen next to the people I make up," he said. "Fiction is an escape from the
intolerable, like experiencing life in a way that lets us survive it."
to Gaiman, the most important power of writing is the moment when it saves your
life. "We save our lives in such unlikely ways," he said. "We owe it to
ourselves to tell stories."
projects Gaiman said he's working on include a follow-up or two to American
as well as a short story, "Dead Room," based on unsettling electronic voice
phenomenon his friend heard in a recording studio in Edinburgh of a little
ghost girl pleading, "Please go away." In addition, Gaiman vows to write a
secretly anti-authoritarian children's book, Choosday, about a cute panda
with allergies. Lastly, he's finishing a set of instructions about how to
survive a fairytale — also known as life — because, according to
Gaiman, "it's all about having choices."
Touch the wooden gate
in the wall you never saw before.
Do not forget your
If an eagle gives you
a feather, keep it safe. Remember your name. Trust
Trust your heart,
above all else, trust your stories.