There was an intriguing post last week on Neil Gaiman’s journal that suggests that the usually black-clad teller of tales is by now on a monthlong trek through the hinterlands of China on a story safari:
Tonight I’m home, sitting on the sofa with my daughters who are watching the Olympics. This morning I went out and bought lots of lightweight, quick-drying clothes and other useful travel things, with my assistant Lorraine. (At one point during the clothes-buying part of things Lorraine helpfully said, "Boss you’re still wearing their pants. Why don’t you go back into your own?" Which seemed like a sensible idea, so I grabbed my jeans and headed back to the changing room, overhearing the sales lady saying, "Is he a professor?" and Lorraine’s reply of, "He’s a writer. It’s the same thing.")
So I now have lots of new, light, easily washed clothes, many of them grey or white, which means I will spend much of the next four weeks feeling like I am in disguise.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to post while on the road — I’m going to be very much off the beaten track doing research for the next big project, and a lot of time I’ll be on foot in rural China…
The next big project sounds mighty interesting. Gaiman also said in that post that he is in talks with publisher HarperCollins about making his first novel, "Neverwhere," available for reading for free online, as was done with his book "American Gods" this past February. "Neverwhere" could be everywhere as soon as September, he wrote, and it will "be done in some different ways" than the "American Gods" approach.
In other Gaiman news, the Los Angeles Times recently had a well-done piece on the stage production inspired by his unsettling 1995 graphic novel "The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch."
The article was written by Amy Nicholson and quotes Gaiman on the underlying themes of the book.
"It’s not so much about the nature of memory as about the nature of family memory, collective memory, generational memory," says Gaiman. "Family secrets are always there and are impossible to properly unravel — and then at the point where the secret doesn’t matter, nobody remembers any longer."
Gaiman’s story took root with SoCal’s Rogue Artists Ensemble, a company devoted to puppetry and masks. The Rogues spent two years asking to adapt the book for the stage — a "mad persistence," says Gaiman, that won them the distinction of being the first troupe to be given clearance.
"All the things we love to do are already in there," says Rogue’s artistic director Sean T. Cawelti, who stages the show.
But unpacking the layers of storytelling in puppet tradition — now warped and bracketed through modern eyes — is complicated for both company and audience.
"We play the violence as realistic and grim," says Cawelti of the puppet show within their show. "It’s a comment on what’s going on with the boy in his real world. This game is funny and cute, then serious things take place."
The play is running through Aug. 31 at the Bootleg Theatre (2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (800) 838-3006). It also got a very strong review by F. Kathleen Foley, also writing for The Times.
— Geoff Boucher
BONUS For fun, check out Gaiman’s favorite monsters of film from the past 25 years.
Photo of Neil Gaiman in Manhattan in 2007, by Jennfer S. Altman for The Los Angeles Times.
"Punch" photo by Bobby Brown shows actors Sean Eaton, left, and Tom Ashworth from the Rogue Artist Ensemble.