The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell (Harper Design, $39.99, 320 pages)
Neil Gaiman describes his work as making stuff up and writing it down.
Where to begin? The perfect biographer, the physical book (a large one), the captivating stories and their history coalesce to provide the fortunate reader with the feeling of truly experiencing Neil Gaiman. Audrey Niffenegger, author of the ghost story Her Fearful Symmetry and fellow Brit, sets the mood for Hayley Campbell’s thorough exploration into the evolution of Gaiman, to date.
If there is one thing that characterizes Gaiman as a writer (and McKean as an artist for that matter), it’s that he likes to keep moving on, a habit that was no doubt born during his time as a journalist and seeing writers being trapped in boxes from which they can never escape.
I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Neil Gaiman. The only work of Gaiman’s that I’ve read – and it happened in one sitting, is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The provocative little novel piqued my curiosity. Who would write in this style and what sort of person are they in everyday life?
Biographer (and model) Campbell establishes her bona fides by explaining that she met Gaiman in 1992 when she was just six years old. He was a houseguest and, based on her dad’s enthusiasm at the visit, she knew he was special. Oh, and he was the author of her favorite childhood story. Their friendship has continued to the present. Campbell had free run of the vast archive of his work, mostly stored in the attic of his home.
The Art of Neil Gaiman is appropriately named. Gaiman made conscious and sometimes not-so-conscious decisions to become a writer. At times he took odd assignments to provide himself with food and shelter. Regardless of the job outcomes, it is clear that Gaiman searches for the lesson and value in his experiences. As a writer for magazines, he learned to quickly produce a finished piece. His habit of taking notes of ideas as they occur to him has provided him with a wealth of material.
The numerous illustrations are widely varied – photocopies of scribbled notes, childhood pictures, sketches for various projects and illustrations from finished works. The book is easy to read and engaging. Each page entertains the reader.
I savored the vignettes along with meals. There was no urgency as one feels with a mystery novel. The unfolding tale of Gaiman’s development as an artist is fascinating. The sections are arranged in quasi-chronological order. Some contain parallel time frames but different aspects of his development as a writer.
So, just what sort of person is this artist in everyday life? Neil Gaiman has a genuine appreciation of readers as well as being a kind person. Oh, and his imagination is boundless!
This book will remain a permanent part of my library.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
You can read a review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (by Neil Gaiman) here: