On Tuesday night, I spent $300 to go to the Neil Gaiman book signing at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. I left without getting a book signed.
To be fair, tickets didn’t cost $300. Tickets were originally $22 – but I found out about the event long after it had completely sold out. So I swallowed hard, visited Stubhub, and paid some lucky bastard about six times face value for two tickets.
Gaiman is my favourite author (yeah, I have a key to hell tattoo) and he’d never visited anywhere remotely close to where I was living, so I figured the expense was worth it. This is also, reportedly, his last signing tour.
I came with the first volume of Absolute Sandman, looking to get it signed. I picked up Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, too.
- Will you ever write another Dr. Who? (Yes, if the BBC can pay in extra months in which to work.)
- What’s the best cure for loneliness? (Snakes in your hair a la Medusa. You’ll always have someone to talk to.)
- If you could be best friends with any character you’ve written, who would it be? (Merv Pumpkinhead from Sandman, purely to keep him in line.)
- It also turns out he gave up journalism because an editor wanted him to write a shoddy exposé on the perils of playing Dungeons and Dragons. Who knew.
As the questions wrapped, the organizers moved to the main event – the signing. About 1,200 people were crammed into the hall, and each of them had two books for him to sign.
As people shuffled to the front, row by row – I realized I had absolutely no interest in getting my book signed.
To be clear – this is not a knock on Neil Gaiman, nor a knock on anyone who stayed for hours to get their books signed. If it makes you happy, that is fantastic.
But as I sat there watching, I simply didn’t feel the need. I came to hear Neil Gaiman speak – to hear his work from his own lips, to gain some glimmer of insight into his thoughts and feelings.
And I got that. I laughed intensely with this charming, scraggly-haired British guy and felt like I knew him just a smidge better afterwards. I paid $300 to hear him speak, and I totally got my money’s worth in just over an hour.
A writer’s worth and power comes from the weight of his words and the depth of his imagination. Not from an initial scrawled on the inside of a book. Sure, a signature would be nice to have – but the man has given me all I need in writing already. Anything else is just superfluous.
So Instead of waiting in that line to get a book signed, I buggered off and started reading Ocean at the End of the Lane, because I hadn’t gotten to it yet. It’s good. Really good.
(As a disclaimer, they were selling pre-signed copies of the book at the front, and I got one. But that’s not the same as meeting him at a signing, and I think you know that.)
So Neil – sorry I didn’t get to meet you. Your work was a big part of shaping my love affair with the written word, and pointed me towards journalism as a career.
But instead of waiting in that line, I wanted to get somewhere quiet and read, while your voice was still fresh in my mind.
Hope you understand.