alexandra alger

ABC

Neil Gaiman, Live (Onscreen)

Neil Gaiman. Is there anyone more delightful to listen to talk about books? Somehow words like “delightful” come to me when I think of Gaiman. So English. Not that he’s necessarily so English—I’m mean, he’s English, but I don’t know if he’s one of those people you talk about as being “so English.” I digress.

There he was, live via video, talking from his home, about his favorite book, James Thurber’s “The 13 Clocks,” as a host of the Wall Street Journal Book Club. I can’t get over how he well he puts things. When one reader asked what his favorite passage was, he didn’t just boringly say, “Oh, I don’t have one.” He called the book a “giant favorite passage.” Don’t you love that?

I’d asked if any part of the book had scared him as a boy—the story is as dark as it is light—and he said no, because the narrator’s voice was so “comforting.” He found it scarier now, as an adult, he added. It’s funny how that can happen. I read Grimm’s fairy tales over and over at age six or eight. You couldn’t pay me to read The Little Match Girl or Bluebeard again. (For the record I was never so fond of the serial wife killer. Why is this a children’s story, by the way?)

Neil was insistent about 13 Clocks being a self-aware fairy tale, a metafictional work in which the characters know they’re in a story. I finally see what he means. In parts. I’m a bit slow, compared to Neil Gaiman.

If you’re a Gaiman fan, you can find the video Q&A at the Wall Street Journal’s blog Speakeasy: blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy.

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