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Neil Gaiman, hit by a love-shaped brick

This interview with Biagio Antonacci was published in issue 40 of Vanity Fair of 2 October 2013 and we propose it again today to retrace the changes of which Vanity has been the protagonist in the last 20 years. Here are all the articles we are republishing.

there are people who make you feel like an old friend, even if you’ve never met them. People with whom surnames are a formality. While I wait with the phone to my ear to talk to Neil Gaiman, I think about how difficult it is not to call your favorite writer by name. I think of the song that Tori Amos dedicated to him, Carbon, the one that says: «Give me Neil. No, I can’t wait,” and it’s so true. Then, suddenly, he responds with a “Hello!” cheerful, and you know right away that he will never be «Mr. Gaiman.” «The most famous writer you’ve never heard of» – the definition is Forbes – he is a kind English gentleman. Because yes, he has sold more than ten million books worldwide, but he has always run on two parallel tracks. His fans, including Tori Amos, in fact, or Stephen King, idolize him. Yet many, especially in Italy, don’t know who he is, perhaps because he writes graphic novels and fantasy-horror books, two genres that are not exactly popular. However, he is a shame. He started in 1989 with the comic series Sandman, and then, passing through cinema and TV, he arrived at novels. The last one, The ocean at the end of the path, out October 8, is his first for adults in eight years, and is dedicated to his second wife, American rock star Amanda Palmer, whom he married in 2011. Another cult artist. Their marriage also united their respective fans in a sort of “punk-dark royal wedding”.
The “fault” lies with this wedding if in the end this is not the “gothic” interview that someone who writes about death, ghosts and spirits should give. She will instead be romantic, interrupted by long pauses, sighs and emotion. From both sides.

He said The Ocean at the End of the Path is his most personal book. It’s also very sad.
«I started it because I missed my wife. She was in Australia recording an album, and I thought: “I’ll send her a story to show her how much I love her, it’ll be a nice romantic gesture.” I wanted her to understand something about me when I was 7 years old. An honest and little fantasy story, because Amanda is very practical. I kept writing, and eventually a novel came out. I didn’t want it to be sad, but I was sad while I was writing it, and sometimes, even if you don’t want it to be, the book becomes who you are.”

His wife says he’s great at talking about how you fell in love. I’m curious.
«It all started when I talked about his songs on my blog. She sent me a very nice email, and we started talking. She asked me to write lyrics for a book of her photos of her, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. When we met I didn’t think he was sexy, I didn’t particularly like him. Then we worked together, and I changed my mind. I loved talking to her, but I didn’t think of her romantically, also because she already had a boyfriend. Then one day, Amanda crossed the street without looking left or right. She was in Belfast, Ireland, where for an American the cars come the wrong way, and a car crushed her foot…».

It almost feels like the beginning of the movie Closer: the American Natalie Portman hit in London and rescued by the Englishman Jude Law.
“I did not see it. However, it went like this: I go to visit her, she goes down the stairs with crutches, and I’m there, thinking: “My God”. It was like someone had hit me on the head with a love-shaped brick. For the first time I saw her vulnerable and I thought I wanted to take care of her, spend my whole life with her. When she broke up with her boyfriend, I invited her to New York. When it was time to go home, she looked at me and said, “It was nice, but I have to think about it.” I was shocked: to get away from everything and everyone, I drove to Florida, two thousand miles alone with my dog. But in the end she called me…”.

Sometimes Amanda sings naked. Doesn’t it bother you?
«When we worked together on her book, she sent me photos in which she appeared not only naked, but also dead. And I think in my head Amanda Palmer has always been naked. It’s not like having a girlfriend that only you see and then suddenly the whole world sees her. This is my wife, this is what she does. I knew she was the person I was committing myself to.”

Speaking to graduates at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, he invited them to “make mistakes.” What’s the best you’ve done?
«A colossal mistake was thinking that it would be easy for an English writer to date an American rock star. It’s not, we can only carve out a small window between one commitment and another, but it’s wonderful. And the mistakes that work are the best.”

But he was talking about art with the students that time…
«Missing the name “Caroline”. I wrote it “Coraline”, and from there my book of the same name was born. If I hadn’t made that mistake, I would never have written it.”

He often writes about death, he even personified it in his comics. Why?
«I don’t know where my ideas come from. I like to use imagination to teach people that things aren’t exactly how we always imagined them. People wrote to me telling me that a grandmother, a sister, a son had died. And that what I had created had made them feel better. It makes me happy to know that the death I invented somehow comforted them.”

You are English, but have lived in the United States since 1992. Do you like America?
«I’m a big fan of hers, but I still don’t understand her. She is very great, very strange, very funny. Every time I’m in New York, I expect to see superheroes flying out the windows. I’m meant to live here. As a child, I saw drawings of skyscrapers in a book and thought they were invented, that a place like that couldn’t exist. Instead Yes”.

He always says that one day he will grow up and get “a real job.” Isn’t being a writer?
“Usually real jobs require you to get up early in the morning, go somewhere to do stuff, come home at night, exhausted, to watch TV because your brain is fried. As a writer, I wake up whenever I want and start creating. How cool is that? I kiss a beautiful rock star, I write what’s in my head, I make people happy by inventing things. And sometimes, in a very small way, these things change the world.”

Before saying goodbye, I told him that I bought tickets for Amanda’s concert on November 9th in Milan. And he makes me make a promise: «When you see her, tell her that you talked about her with her husband, and that he loves her». Too bad, he’s really in love. Not even telling him about when, crazy about the characters of SandmanI disguised myself as Death, he could win him over.

Source: Vanity Fair

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