by Renee Kimball
Neil Richard Gaiman will turn 60 this year. Gaiman’s stories and characters are now in our hearts and embedded in our lexicon. These stories are part of the story of us.
Who does not know the tale of Coraline, little girl lost, or American Gods, a tale of forgotten cultures and religions? And Anansi Boys (American Gods Book 2), a captivating yarn springing from African lore? And the popular collaborative work with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, now a Netflix production.
Gaiman is more than a fantasy writer, he reveals encyclopedic knowledge of world mythologies, world religion, world history, and a smorgasbord of other oddly relatable facts.
Mostly, people are drawn to him because he was and is a bookish person, and was once a very lonely boy who lived in libraries nurtured by librarians.
That lonely boy grew up and became one of the most famous graphic artists in the world, pushing graphic arts to new heights with his Sandman series. He has become a well-respected author for his research, and his multiple adult and children’s fiction. And he is the champion of Libraries and Librarians.
In 2018, Gaiman published a small book illustrated by Chris Riddell titled Art Matters-Because Your Imagination Can Change The World.
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.’ Neil Gaiman
This book is a story about reading, libraries, librarians, writing, life choices, disappointments, and the belief that Art Matters.
“I believe that it is difficult to kill an idea because ideas are invisible and contagious, and they move fast.”
Gaiman stands as the champion of the freedom of ideas and against suppression of any ideas. He is a believer in the right of expression; whether these notions are correct or not, they are yours. Your idea of God, the state of the world, or anything else is individual—if you don’t agree, you can ignore or object—it’s your choice.
And Gaiman believes that our future, your future, “Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming.”
“I suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m making a plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.”
Simply, librarians are unique in their position in the world. More than ever, they provide a universe in which “the love of reading” is encouraged, they show that reading is a “pleasurable activity.”
“. . .Everything changes when we read. . .Fiction builds empathy. . .”
“I was lucky I had an excellent local library growing up, and met the kind of librarians who did not mind a small unaccompanied boy heading back into the children’s library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives of witches or wonders. . .”
“A Library is a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it.”
For writers there is a personal desire that people should want to read, buy your books, your stories, become engaged in what you write. But more importantly there needs to be a concerted effort by everyone to teach all children “to read and enjoy reading.” To do that, libraries and librarians are the key, without them, we have nothing.
And where did all this reading lead this small bookish boy? Gaiman admits that starting a “career in fine arts, you have no idea what you are doing,” and that is a good thing, because you will not be held back by others’ limitations. Regardless of what befalls you, he admonishes, “Make Good Art.”
If you do decide to pursue a career in fine arts, know that not everything is going to work. It will make you uncomfortable, it will make you want to stop, it will make you want to hide. The point is, try again, write or draw and explore again. If we listen to Gaiman’s message, the message to create in your own way, even if it is uncomfortable or not understood, even if you feel like a fraud, or even if you are criticized, you will survive it.
“Be bold, be rebellious, choose Art. It Matters.” Neil Gaiman
A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate and fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.