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The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection (thoughts)

October 15, 2009

NeilGaimanAudioCollectionI think regular readers of my blog (and anyone who checks out my About page!) will know that Neil Gaiman is one of my very favourite authors. I’ve read (and reread all but The Graveyard Book) all of his novels and short story collections (including the ones aimed at the younger crowd), the first couple Sandman volumes (I know, it’s blasphemy, but they’re my least favourite of his works-not because of the story but the artistic style), and some other random works.

He wasn’t always one of my very favourites, though. I discovered him through Good Omens, a hilarious armageddon spoof he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. Then I went on to American Gods, which I expected to love, since it had all sorts of mythology. But, well, I didn’t love it as much as I expected. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I read Stardust (or was it Neverwhere? I can’t even remember!), and I ened up hooked. Over the next few years, I began to read him regularly, and when I reread American Gods I discovered much to my delight that now I loved it. I share that because there’s almost a ‘cartel’ of Neil Gaiman lovers among us book bloggers, and when other bloggers try him for the first time, they sometimes write in their posts that they ‘can’t see what all the fuss is about.’ I think one of the best things about Gaiman is that none of his two books feel the same! Sure, they all deal generally with ‘fantastic’ premises, but each has its own style. I love Gaiman’s literary inventiveness, so I would say if you don’t adore your first Gaiman book, don’t write him off completely!

Which brings me in a roundabout way to The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection. I put this on my list for the Dream King Challenge (which I have now completed!) since I hadn’t read any of Gaiman’s picture books (I was waiting until my niece got old enough to share them with me-I think I’ll be getting them from the library has soon as she arrives for a visit!), and I like trying out authors reading their own books (although this horribly backfired with Ray Bradbury-I only got 30 minutes in to Farenheight 451 when I realised I couldn’t handle his voice). It turns out to be only one CD, so I listened to it in my car over a few days.

Guess what? It was delightful! Gaiman reads three picture books: The Wolves in the Wall, Cinnamon, and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and a poem “Crazy Hair.” Then at the end, his daughter Maddy interviews him. Gaiman’s reading style is as varied as his writing one-each of the stories has a distinct narrative voice, and feel to it, than I could really hear thanks to Gaiman. And even though these are published as picture books, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything with the audioversion!

My favourite was probably the first, and longest (in audio format at least, so I suppose ‘wordiest’), one: The Wolves in the Wall. In it Lucy (one of my favourite names!), a young girl, begins hearing noises in the wall. She thinks it sounds like wolves, but her family doesn’t believe her. As they brush her off though, they all say the same thing: “If the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” When the wolves finally do come out of the walls, Lucy’s family wants to run away, fantasising about moving to the desert, or the north pole, or anywhere wolves don’t live, and living in tents, or igloos, or any house without actual walls. But Lucy doesn’t want to move, and so she rallies her family to fight back. I loved this for the way Gaiman plays with words:

There are sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises coming from inside the walls.

And while there’s something timeless about the story, that harkens back to my favourite books as a child, it’s at the same time completely original.

I also loved Cinnamon, which almost felt like Byatt’s fairy tale short stories, except written for children. You can read it for free on Gaiman’s website, and I’m not sure if it’s been published in hard copy format. The style is very fable/fairy-tale like, and it concerns Cinnamon, “a princess, a long time ago, in a small, hot country” who doesn’t talk, and the tiger who arrives at the palace to teach her how. Here’s the description of the tiger:

One day a tiger came to the palace. He was huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god through the world; which is how tigers move.

If that doesn’t make you want to read the story, or explain why I loved it, nothing will!

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was a more traditional picture book, one I can imagine my three-year-old niece adoring for its repetition and nested storyline, as well as its humour! A young boy makes a trade with his friend, but when his mom gets back she tells him to go get his father back right now. So the young boy has to go from house to house, because a whole series of swaps have been made, to try to get back his dad. And of course, his little sister has to tag along and pester him! :) It’s clever enough that I wouldn’t mind having to read it every day for awhile, either, which I think is important in picture books! (Since, let’s be honest, if you have a toddler in your life, you probably have their favourite ones memorised!)

The poem, “Crazy Hair,” was another one I think is aimed at a younger crowd. It had a nice rhyme and rhythm to it, and the story (about a boy with crazy hair) gets sillier and siller! I imagine the picture book version is a lot of fun, and it’s another one I intend to read with my niece this year!

And then there was the interview, which was really neat. First of all, it was fun to see Gaiman as a father interacting with his daughter. :) Also, he mentions The Graveyard Book in the interview, as something he’s going to start writing after finishing his next adult book! It’s funny to think that at the time he didn’t know he’d win the Newbery for it. :D But mainly, I loved it because Gaiman is a marvelous speaker, and Maddy has good questions! The ending was so adorable too: Maddy says “Ok. Well, I’ll talk to you later.” Gaiman replies, “What?! You’re my daughter.” And Maddy goes, “I know Dad, but shhh. I couldn’t think of anything else to say!” (That’s my memory of it, so it might be a bit paraphrased.) It made me giggle.

Only I could manage to write 1,000 words about an audiobook that lasts one CD! But I highly recommend this to Gaiman fans, or to anyone who listens to audiobooks.

Do you have any not-to-be missed audiobook suggestions? And what about Gaiman: are you an uber-fan like myself, or more tepid? Which book of his is your favourite?

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2009 4:41 am

    I love Neil Gaiman’s narrative voice. I’ve been lucky enough to hear him read aloud from The Graveyard Book in person and I’ve listened to Fragile Things in audio.

    From the audiobooks you listened to, I’ve read The Wolves in the Wall and really enjoyed it (I like its darkness for younger readers).

    I started off with Good Omens and enjoyed it but didn’t love it (I love Terry Pratchett) but I adored American Gods and Neverwhere and his other novels and short stories followed promptly after. I would consider myself an uber-fan.

  2. October 15, 2009 4:44 am

    I think Neil Gaiman is a great narrator and I enjoyed listening to The Graveyard Book, but think I would have enjoyed it more as a child. I am going to ensure my children discover him soon and may get this for them. Thank you for sharing your love for him with us!

  3. October 15, 2009 6:10 am

    I’m still on the fence about Gaiman. I first read Coraline last fall, and it was pretty good, then I read American Gods and just couldn’t stand it, and last readathon I read Stardust, which was great. I’ve also read Blueberry Girl, which was cute but it’s hard for me to evaluate because I’m not a big picture book reader. I’m hoping to get to The Graveyard Book for this readathon. I’m worried about his adult books more than the younger ones, because of my bad experience with AG. I’ve been told Anansi Boys is really good, so I plan to give it a try one day, but havne’t been brave enough to yet.

  4. October 15, 2009 6:27 am

    So this is an audiobook of the picture books? I’ve listened to a few of those with my son. It’s kind of fun. Some of them have the “dings” for the page turns so we try to read the books as we listen. It doesn’t work well as he is two years old.

    It sounds adorable, though, and the interview with his daughter sounds like fun! I’m going to see if it’s at the library when I go. I think I saw it on display in the children’s section last week and I thought “Oh, I liked the Gaiman novel I just read (my first). Maybe I need to read more Gaiman.”

    Thanks for the push…

  5. October 15, 2009 6:36 am

    I looooove Neil Gaiman, so very much. My favorite memory of his books is definitely American Gods. When I read it for the first time, I couldn’t put it down; but it’s never been nearly as good on rereads. So actually my favorite of his books is Neverwhere, and I love the BBC adaptation of it too.

    But of the picture books, Wolves in the Walls. Or anything really that Dave McKean illustrated. And oh, MirrorMask, that movie’s one of my desert island films. :)

  6. October 15, 2009 6:53 am

    I’m a fan !!

    My favorites are Stardust and Neverwhere but I loved almost everything I read written by him (with the exception of American Gods which I found also great but somewhat too disjointed for my taste). These days I have ordered my first Sandman book and I am looking forward to it too.

    Oh, and I too have discovered Gaiman with Good Omens, a book I picked up ’cause I’m a huge Pratchett fan :)

  7. October 15, 2009 7:46 am

    I think I am one of the few bloggers who has not yet read a Neil Gaiman book. He’s on my list to try based on the fact that so many rave about him. I’ve got to try and get something read of his by the end of the year!

  8. October 15, 2009 8:31 am

    I’ve just become a recent convert to the awesome that is Neil Gaiman & I’ve just started to read American Gods. I’m trying not to read reviews about it, but it just seems to pop up everywhere I go! Oh well. I really liked Neverwhere, so I’m hoping AG follows in its footsteps :)

  9. October 15, 2009 8:42 am

    I am still on the fence about Gaiman – I’ve only read two of his books, one which I really didn’t like (Stardust… and I also didn’t like the movie) and one which I liked quite a lot (The Graveyard Book). I’ve also seen the movie Coraline, which I liked a good deal, but I haven’t read the book. I think he is wildly creative and has some interesting stories to tell, but for some reason I never really LOVE anything he does. I am willing to keep reading, however, because I am convinced there might be something in his back catalog that transforms me into an uber fan! ;)

  10. Carol permalink
    October 15, 2009 10:45 am

    As far as Gaiman goes, I loved American Gods and felt kind of blah about Stardust. This sounds like a good audio for the whole family. I’ll have to keep it in mind the next time we’re all going to be in the car an hour or more.

  11. October 15, 2009 12:50 pm

    I’ve never actually read Gaiman…I’ve been meaning to though! Any suggestions on where to start?

    • October 15, 2009 6:54 pm

      J.T. – I think you would like American Gods because of its religious and apocalyptic themes and its wicked sense of humor

      • October 15, 2009 6:57 pm

        Damn it … I meant Good Omens. :) I’m tired.

  12. October 15, 2009 1:54 pm

    I bet this is delightful – I love to hear Gaiman speak.

  13. October 15, 2009 2:09 pm

    I love Neil Gaiman’s stuff! Neverwhere is one of my favourite books ever! However the big one, every one else seems to love American Gods I really didn’t enjoy and never finished it. :(

    On a brighter note Gaiman is a brilliant narrator, one of the best.

  14. October 15, 2009 4:19 pm

    Awww, this one sounds like so much fun! The first Gaiman I read was American Gods, and I didn’t like it as much as I expected. I’ve dipped in and out of his short stories through the years, but it wasn’t until The Graveyard Book that I was launched into the realm of the uber-fans. I have Stardust and Neverwhere waiting on my shelves, and I have several of his pictures books that I adore.

    My favorite audiobooks: anything David Sedaris and Keith Donoghue’s The Stolen Child. Amazing readers in The Stolen Child.

  15. October 15, 2009 4:52 pm

    aw, that sounds like fun. I love that guy.

  16. October 15, 2009 6:56 pm

    I like some of Gaiman’s books and love other ones and I also really like him as a person. I’m slowly getting through all of his stuff and he’ll always be a higher-ranked author for me but maybe never an absolute favorite.

  17. October 15, 2009 8:27 pm

    He does have a fantastic voice…I think it’s perfectly suited to what he writes, as it can be just a bit spooky.

  18. October 15, 2009 8:52 pm

    I haven’t read any Gaiman yet! I know I have to try him, since you and other bloggers love him. How old is his daughter? that interview sounds so adorable.

  19. October 15, 2009 10:22 pm

    I listened to this during the Read-A-Thon last April and it was such a blast! Lovely, lovely stories heard with Neil’s voice! Obviously I’m such a fangirl! I adored the interview too!

    I hope you get Two Plays for Voices. It features two of Neil’s stories: Snow Glass Apples and Murder Mysteries. While both aren’t read by Neil (eh, note of the title of the cd) it’s a great audiobook!

  20. October 16, 2009 6:22 am

    I read Good Omens years ago, at the time when I read a lot of Terry Pratchett but had no idea who Neil Gaiman was! I’ve listened to the audio of American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book and Fragile Things. I love his stuff, particularly as narrated by Gaiman himself. I thought Neverwhere was a bit disappointing, but ok. Stardust was stronger, although I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending (and the movie was also disappointing although in different ways). Anansi Boys didn’t work for me. I really like the idea of Sandman, but I’ve disliked every graphic novel I’ve tried, so haven’t made the attempt. I think at this point, I’d pick up any new novel or story collection, though.

  21. October 16, 2009 9:44 am

    Claire, I’m on my library’s hold list for the audiobook of Graveyard w/ him as narrator. :D (I’m #30 or something, but I hope it appears eventually). And I loved hearing your Gaiman history! :)

    Jackie, I remember reading your review of that! I hope your sons love him. :D

    Amanda, we talked about this extensively on Twitter! ;) As I said there, Anansi Boy shas a very different tone from AG.

    Rebecca, yep-it is. Two of them are long pictures books, though, at over 50 pages! Hope you (and your son) enjoy it if you snag it from the library!

    Jenny, yay for the uber-fans! I watched Mirrormask, but I couldn’t get into it…I’m very visual, and a lot of the effects/costuming/sets turned me off. I enjoyed the story, though.

    Kay, thanks for filling me in! I love hearing from other fans. :)

    Kathleen, lol-I hope you enjoy him!

    She, sorry-I don’t think I gave much away though! ;)

    Steph, I lurve Stardust and the movie (although it’s quite different!). I just saw Coraline the movie on Monday, and it disappointed me a little-I expected it to be as good as Nightmare Before Christmas, but I didn’t think it was as visually pleasing. Oh well. And I feel that way about other authors, so I get it. :)

    Carol, it’s definitely family-friendly!

    J.T., it depends on your tastes! Good Omens is a spoof, Stardust is very classical fairy tale/Victoriana-ish, American Gods has a noir tone to it (I think it’s the darkest of his novels), Neverwhere is urban fantasy w/ a bumbling everyman hero, Graveyard Book is a dark YA novel, Coraline is a scary kid’s book, Anansi Boys is humourous but not a spoof (I actually would recommend it as a first one, if I didn’t know someone’s taste in books!), and Smoke and Mirrors is my fave of his two short story collections. I don’t know if that helps at all! lol

    BermudaOnion, I love hearing him tell stories too. :)

    Darren, I didn’t enjoy it unti lmy secont try, so don’t worry about it!

    Andi, awesome! Funny how so many of us felt let down by AG! And thanks for the audiobook recs-I’ve read the hard copy version of Stolen Child and loved it, so I wouldn’t mind an audio reread!

    Daphne, :)

    Kristen, I get that-I feel that way about other authors!

    Softdrink, I agree-his voice seems to combines a bit of spookiness with a hint of laughter.

    Valerie, I think she’s in her early teens now, but I’d guess she was younger when the book came out-maybe 10-ish?

    Lightheaded, OMG! I didn’t know about that audiobook, but those are two of my VERY FAVE Gaiman stories!!!

    Becky, when I read Good Omens I knew Pratchett and not Gaiman too! (My bestie in middle school was obsessed with Discworld.) You’re the first person I’ve heard who didn’t enjoy Anansi Boys! Interesting. I don’t like the drawing style in Sandman at all, but I just discovered my library has the Absolute Sandman editions, which apparently has different drawings. So I’m on the wait list & more hopeful.

  22. October 16, 2009 9:09 pm

    Good Omens was my first book by him, too! I find him a bit hit or miss, but I haven’t read everything by him yet.

  23. October 20, 2009 6:00 am

    Kailana, which ones did you consider misses? Am curious!

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