Thursday, November 27, 2008

how to be above reproach

Talented essayist Anna Sanderson has just won one of the Arts Foundation’s ‘New Generation’ Awards donated by the Freemasons and worth a gob-smacking $25,000.

Here she is speaking as one of the writers shortlisted for the Modern Letters Prize this year. Next to her is Bill Manhire and, beside him, the ear of the winner, David Beach.

I am thrilled for Anna who was in my MA class at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2005. A quietly-spoken classmate with a background in photography and art writing, everything she said was astute and worth listening to. I think all nine of the rest of us made note of Anna's comments on our work and vowed to be better next time.

The essays she was working on, which became her MA thesis and eventually her book, Brainpark, astonished all of us with their insight, singularity and power. The other thing we had to grasp in a hurry was that Anna wasn't out to impress anyone, she just wrote as she wrote, and that meant she provoked and unsettled people and left them feeling plain uncomfortable sometimes.
The other astonishing thing was Anna found herself unexpectedly pregnant near the start of the year and still managed to have her baby, get back to class, complete her thesis and win one of the IIML prizes.

Anna's publisher Victoria University Press says 'Brainpark is a wholly convincing experiment in the essay form. A core theme of disassociation of feeling and aesthetic effect is explored in a number of contexts – family, faith, art history, sanctuary.'

Anna does all this with intellectual playfulness, literary surefootedness and self-effacing honesty. Writer Ian Wedde picked Anna's book as one of his finds of the year and said it is 'an engrossing read, a critically astute piece of writing and a mature accomplishment. Brainpark sets a new standard for the personal essay in New Zealand.' Anna went on to win the prestigious Landfall Essay Competition in 2006.

Looking through my MA reading journal (titled 'The Incredible Shrinking Novel') I realise how often Anna gave me small gifts about the art of writing that I stored away and have fallen back on many times since. The one I remember most clearly was an epiphany about the use of precise description to reveal a sudden startling insight into character. What someone once referred to as describing the coffin not the grief. Here's what I wrote back then:
I've just read Anna's description of her father cutting her nails. She has an ambivalent relationship with him but Anna doesn’t say that, she talks about how he cut the nails – pure and simple.

She’s 19, he holds the nails tightly but still there’s a 'doddery imprecision', he has high quality Swedish nail scissors. He seems controlling, perfectionist, cold, detached. She never uses those words. It is a triumph this paragraph.

I have learnt a lot from Anna’s strange, prickly, clever essays especially her character studies. I enjoyed too an apposite quote she included from Ingmar Bergman regarding how art lost its way when it became separate from worship.
Early on in class, Anna made clear her approach to writing and she never veered from it. Even if at times we felt uncomfortable in its glare. Here's the reading journal again - this time we'd just finished a poetry exercise.
Approaching the poem, I was determined to be more honest in my writing – this came fresh off the back of Anna’s startling honesty last week in her False Starts assignment. The statement that resonated for all of us was: I want to be above reproach. This referred to how her work was viewed by the class.

It struck me then how engaging honesty is in writing, just as it is in people we meet. It has a nice way of making the reader complicit with the author: ‘look here’s a secret.’ I realise I was far more open when I was first writing years ago, but have learnt over the years to make more use of, what Bill Manhire calls, a ‘foliage of words.’ Maybe there’s more to protect as one gets older.
Later on in the year, Anna returned to this theme.
Regarding poetry being ‘complicated’, Anna pointed out sometimes we are sated with indirectness and implication and need something more concrete, and to explore bigger issues head on. [Later note: there is some irony in this as in a matter of days Anna will have her baby.]
On the day of the Brainpark book launch, Anna arrived with her partner and her baby and said she had been shaking all day with the thought of what she had written going out into the world. She stood up to speak without an apparent tremor, and was grinning from ear to ear signing books afterwards.
I have deep respect for Anna and her courage and skill as a writer and I am immensely grateful for what she taught me the year of my MA which is when I whittled a flabby manuscript of The Blue down to size, and made it into a novel.

There were a lot of wonderful people saying 'drink me' that year, but Anna's voice was one of the most compelling. The $25,000 prize couldn't have fallen on more fertile or deserving ground. At last, this supremely talented writer can afford to give herself a small break from her babies (there are two now) and get back to prodding those dark corners again to give us all a little more light.

Dad would stand on my right-hand side with his quality Swedish nail scissors, and hold each finger quite tightly as he cut it. He had a slightly doddery imprecision. He would purse his lips in concentration, and then run his thumb over the newly cut edge as if to feel for burrs or rough spots after each nail had been cut. The nails would drop down two storeys to the concrete below.

Anna Sanderson, Brainpark [VUP 2006]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

to make us less afraid

"Kundera argues that the novel's purpose is not to uplift us, or to provide moral guidance, but to make us less afraid." Susan Salter Reynolds • Los Angeles Times

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Laughter and Forgetting

Opposable Thumb - a blog by writer, reviewer, philosopher Denis Welch - quotes Milan Kundera. It stopped me in my tracks because the quote he uses expresses so aptly the thoughts that have been tapping inside my head. It describes the precariosity I want to capture one way or another in my new novel.

It takes so little, so infinitely little for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith,history. Human life—and herein lies its secret—takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch. [Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.]

I was one of many readers captured by Czech author Kundera in 1984 with the publication of his novel The Incredible Lightness of Being. We were living in London at the time and I remember sitting in one of those humid basement laundries waiting for the clothes to dry, and reading a persuasive review of TILB in The Guardian. I went the next day to Charing Cross Road to buy it. Such a title and such a book.

It's about a group of intellectuals living in the wake of the Prague Spring and develops the idea that existence is light because the ordinary life is lived only once in a straight line, and without repetition there is no weight to existence, and therefore no happiness. Or I think that's it. Kundera's not a straightforward read. And like John Banville who reviewed it 20 years later in The Guardian, there is much I've forgotten [more than usual!]:

As I began re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera's novel of love and politics in communist-run Czechoslovakia between 1968 and the early 1980s, I realised that, true to its title, the book had floated out of my mind like a hot-air balloon come adrift from its tethers. I managed to retrieve a few fragments - the naked woman in the bowler hat whom we all remember, the death of a pet dog, a lavatory seat compared to a white water lily rising out of the bathroom floor, and the fact that Nietzsche's name appears in the first line on the first page - but of the characters I retained nothing at all, not even their names. [John Banville]

And you know, try as I might, I don't remember the naked woman in the bowler hat! I remember the womanising Tomas and the painful relationship he has with Tereza. The death of the dog. The deep, depressing drumroll of fate. How sad it all was and how provocative its thinking. Those who know the work of Nietzsche say Kundera appears to both accept and reject the philosopher's position on what the lack of repetition in life means.

It's the author's deep-tissue thinking that elevates The Incredible Lightness of Being into a modern classic. He's considered a modernist and post-modernist, a man of his times and a man who isn't tied to time at all, a moralist and a writer of ideas who gives insights into the 'felt life' [Banville], a writer of significance who writes brilliantly of our insignificance. You don't have to believe what he says to be dazzled by him.

Or at least his writing. The reclusive Kundera - who lives in France in his late 70s - was just last month accused of having betrayed a Czech who spied for the west 58 years ago. Kundera has denied the charge, declaring it 'the assassination of the author.' The Economist titled its article on the subject: 'The Unbearable Weight of History.'

I don't have a copy of The Incredible Lightness of Being anymore. I lent it to a Greek communist, my aunt's former lover, and it was never returned. I have The Book of Laughter and Forgetting somewhere and will never forget the opening image as a searing insight into power and the communist regime. Or perhaps simply power and the closeness of the border posts.

In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square. That was a great turning point in the history of Bohemia. A fateful moment of the kind that occurs only once or twice a millennium.

Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with Clementis standing close to him. It was snowing and cold, and Gottwald was bareheaded. Bursting with solicitude, Clementis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald's head.

The propaganda section made hundreds of thousands of copies of the photograph taken on the balcony where Gottwald, in a fur hat and surrounded by his comrades, spoke to the people. On that balcony the history of Communist Bohemia began. Every child knew that photograph, from seeing it on posters and in schoolbooks and museums.

Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald's head.

It is 1971, and Mirek says: The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

Friday, November 21, 2008


This is my daughter Issy. Isabel. It was taken five years ago when I took the family to Arapawa Island for research for The Blue. That's the mouth of Tory Channel behind her. She and her brothers loved the rope swing, the way it flung them out towards the steep drop to the water and brought them safely back.

Issy's been very unwell lately - stopped unexpectedly over the steep drop and struggling to get back - so I haven't thought of blogging this past week. There was nothing in me to write about. I needed energy and optimism. And then my computer started doing strange things and I couldn't use the internet, so there was no blog-watching either.

Nothing for it but to spend the spare moments, when Issy didn't need me, on marking the last of those creative writing papers, polishing up that manuscript assessment and sorting out the boxes of writing notebooks I've collected. I forgot I had so many (all those fragments of thoughts and observations - what to do with them?)

I also started reading to Issy again: Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book which I blogged on here. It's terrific so far. The sort of thrill I got from the beginning of Great Expectations, and the Leon Garfield books I read as a teenager.

The Blue has provided some entertainment on National Radio every morning. An odd experience, but I'm warming to it. I found the way the finished, crafted work (the novel) had been cut to create a new work difficult at first. Things are juxtaposed differently, events left out, the fine balance I tried to achieve between action and thought in a character, changed. But of course it had to be done, and some of the changes are felicitous.

The actors' voices take the text away now, and it's as if I'm looking at the story from the outside and can appreciate it anew. I even cried at one point! It's actually a fine adaptation by Frances Edmond, directed by Jane Waddell, and it moves me to think of people sitting at home and in their cars, and listening to it.

And Issy's getting better, although she is a little fragile.

I wish we had a swing in our garden like we used to - it was nothing like the Arapawa Island rope swing - but it did the job.

Late News: I have just realised this is my 101st post on O Audacious Book. Goodness, so many. Thank you to all my regular visitors and those who just fall here out of the sky - the man from Portugal who commented on this post for one.

Monday, November 17, 2008


The Blue is on Radio NZ National today at 10.45 am! Press the headphones on the top left of the Radio NZ web page to hear it live - it doesn't appear to have podcasts for some reason. The photo was taken when I visited Arapawa Island with my family on a research trip for the novel. It approximates the view Lilian Prideaux has from her house in The Blue, only she lives closer to the water and is tucked back a little inside the neighbouring bay. The finger of land you see is where the whale lookout was, between the island and the Lookout is Tory Channel which opens into Cook Strait and behind that is a tantalising peek of the Pacific Ocean which takes you to South America and Antarctica where the whales come from ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Golden Delicious

She is sunny
she is sunny side up, my girl
running to meet me.
The other girls look lumpy
with their slumping shoulders
dyed hair and regrowth.
But my one is a beautiful apple
rolling down the drive
out past the school gates.

These are some lines from one of my favourite poems Daughter by Michele Amas. Daughters - or one particular daughter - are on my mind at the moment. The poem was in Michele's collection After the Dance (VUP 2005) which was shortlisted for a Montana, and selected for Best NZ Poems 2005.

Michele says her poems are inspired by what she hears; and like all good actors, she's an eavesdropper. I love that about her work. It resonates with the busyness of people: the things they say and do to fend off and cope with and love the world and each other.

In Best NZ Poems, it says Michele's shift from acting to writing poetry 'came out of a desire to speak from her own script rather than someone else’s.' She says:
‘Acting is a great way to escape yourself, to ignore yourself, and when I stopped for a while there was this chattering going on in my head that I’d never heard before, so I just started taking notes.’

“Daughter” was written out of a desperation to contain a myriad of emotions that living with a teenager forces you to experience daily. In this poem I have attempted to describe the shifting emotional landscape that a mother and child stumble into, quite out of the blue, both unprepared and bewildered – full of blame and guilt, need and love.’'
Read the whole poem online here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Listen this Monday 10.45

The Blue is on radio starting this Monday. Go here to hear it as it goes to air and you can download it for your ipod, too, I'm sure. Just press the little headphones on the left of the Radio NZ web page.

It's on Radio NZ's National Programme every morning at 10.45 am from Monday 17 November until Friday 5 December which sounds epic to me. And one of those days I'm doing a book review in the usual 10.30 slot, so I can sit in the studio afterwards and hear it in glorious surround sound. How cool is that?
The Blue runs for 15 episodes and has been adapted by Frances Edmond into a play for three voices with Jane Waddell producing, and featuring Judith Gibson, Tim Gordon and Denise O'Connell. Which is terribly exciting and nerve-wracking all at once.

Here's the write-up:

Book Readings for week commencing Monday 17 November 2008
The Blue by Mary McCallum
The Blue is the wild windswept story of a small community of whaling families. It’s set on a remote Island in Tory Channel in 1938. It’s a tale of family disharmony, infidelity, teenage rage, death - loss – all blowing through the cracks of domesticity, the sewing, the chooks, the home schooling – like a bitter but barely mentioned southerly.
Published by Penguin
ISBN: 978 1 877361 99 9
Episode 1 of 15

The photo on this post is off the Radio NZ website showing a keen listener out in his kayak. It could be in Tory Channel even. It could even be The Friar madly updated, complete with his dog Smiler. Anything is possible.

And I read a short story today at the Massey Writers Read series mentioned in my last post. This is astonishing to me because I have never read a short story to an audience before, and because this particular story is, for me, an extravagant experiment with voice.

The main character is an older sexually-repressed male university lecturer and he's stuck in a stairwell with a female student.... I was very worried about how it would come across with a female reading but actor Michele Amas, who was also reading today, told me it was fine. She says a couple of sentences in - if you tell it right - people go with you. That's the confidence of an actor, I reckon. Some nice comments from a chap in the audience who believed in my male narrator, and from playwright Ken Duncum.

I did have Novel no. 2 with me to read from if I chickened out, but I told myself I was being ridiculous. The Stairwell (as it's called) was absolutely right for today as I wrote it between the two tutorials I taught at, it was triggered by an event at the university, fed by class discussions on 'voice', and is set at Massey!

It was a treat to be there, too, because I got to hear work in progress from Michele Amas, Ingrid Horrocks, Thom Conroy and Angie Farrow. The latter presented as a short play. All of it, terrific.

Monday, November 10, 2008


With the election result leaving many of the country's writers, artists and musicians - and those that support them - feeling like one big flat tyre, why not get along to BLOW at Massey University this week? Y'know... inflate those sensitive little inner tubes again?

It's the second festival put on by the College of Creative Arts of Massey University and it includes Foya: the fabulous Massey graduate catwalk show, Music Materialised: an astonishing collaboration between textile students and musicians, Toi Whakaari's The Pillowman, the School of Dance's graduation season, the NZ School of Music jazz recital and a raft of other exhibitions, performances, screenings and workshops in and around the Massey Campuses and other arts venues.

There are BOOK EVENTS too. As a tutor at Massey here in Wellington, I'm involved in the session where the university's creative writing staff gets to show off a bit. The line-up is: Michele Amas, Anna Horsley, Thomas Gough, Ingrid Horrocks, Angie Farrow and me. I'll be reading from a short story that I wrote between tutorials! The session will end with a performance of Angie Farrow's 15-minute play, Falling. This event completes Massey's marvellous Writers Read sessions which started a few months back.

Date: Wed 12 Nov, 12 pm – 1:15 pm
Location: Massey University Wellington, Museum Building (main entrance), Boardroom (10A108) Enquiries: I.horrocks at (04) 801 5799 ext 62176

The other cool book event is Songs with Words: a concert which takes poems by e e cummings and Bill Manhire and sets them to music in the chamber jazz idiom. The works will be performed by singer Hannah Griffin, accompanied by composer and pianist Norman Meehan with guest soloists. This is on Tuesday Nov 18, 6-7pm, NZ School of Music Concert Hall.

More details of everything here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nobility of Spirit or Know-Nothingness

[Updated at the end of the post, Sunday] With the New Zealand election upon us and the US election still reverberating, I've been attracted to the idea of an - ironically enough - slim volume called Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal by Rob Reimen. Super book-blogger Mark Sarvas - 10,000 hits a day! - has recommended it highly (look in the right sidebar of his blog - or scroll down here where I quote it in full).

From my internet perch here at the ends of the earth, Barack Obama seems to be someone who remembers what 'Nobility of Spirit' is all about. Of course it's hard to tell, being a pane of bullet-proof glass and a satellite dish away from it all, but the United States seems to have lifted its head up higher and prouder now, seeing itself as - overnight - a nobler beast.

In the depths of a New Zealand election, on the other hand, our parties are still nosing around in the gutter. Labour's nasty little advertisements about John Key have lacked all nobility. As a steady Labour/Green voter, I have been disgusted by them, enough so I started to wonder if the Labour part of my vote (candidate) shouldn't go elsewhere. It won't. There are other things at stake.

But I will try and get hold of Rob Reimen's book. The author is the president and founder of the Nexus Institute, a European-based humanist think-tank and Mark Sarvas says:

'Nobility of Spirit ... stands as the most stirring redoubt against the ascendant forces of know-nothingness that we've come across in a long time.

A full-throated, unapologetic defense of the virtues of Western Civ – in which "elite" is not and never should be a dirty word – this inspiring exploration of high art and high ideals is divided into three sections: The first looks at the life of Riemen's great hero Thomas Mann as a model for the examined life. The second imagines a series of conversations from turning points in European intellectual history, populated with the likes of Socrates, Nietzsche and others. The final section, "Be Brave," is nothing less than an exhortation to dig deep, especially in times of risk.

The notion of nobility of the spirit might strike some modern ears as quaint but it seems more desperately necessary than ever before, and there are worse ways to read the accessible Nobility of Spirit than as a crash refresher in the Great Thinkers,
free of academic jargon and cant.

As a meditation on what is at stake when the pursuit of high ideals is elbowed aside by the pursuit of fleeting material gain, however, Nobility of Spirit might well be the most prescient book we've yet read on what's at stake in the current election cycle and in the developing global situation. Agree or disagree with Riemen's profound, ambitious and high-minded plea, you will be thinking about his words for a long time. It's been ages since a work of non-fiction moved us this way. Read it. Discuss it. Argue about it. '

Late Breaking News: I voted and have my sticker to prove it. So has my 20-year-old son - it was his first time. I was deeply moved to be in the booth next to him and to think of him looking down the names and the parties making his decision. His decision.

Lovely piece from one of my favourite bloggers Denis Welch about the transformation of the ordinary person into a citizen for a day.

Later Breaking News: Some Thoughts on the Election

A National Government. One of the least-experienced Prime Ministers this country has had replacing one of the most committed and able.

'The pursuit of high ideals is elbowed aside...'

We had a good election night at David and Pam's with a small but select range of voters hunched over the TV and a delicious vegetarian lasagne: National/National, Labour/Act, Labour/Labour, Labour/Green ... so I don't want to condemn the decision the country made.

It was made by my friends and family and other people I know.

I wish, though, there had been more Green voters, more Labour voters, fewer National voters...I wish people hadn't thought, like the Mad Hatter, it was 'time for a change'.

Of all times.

When it would surely have been better to keep the able at the helm. When we need 'Nobility of Spirit' to counter all that's yet to come.

What does John Key know about being a Minister let alone about being PM? Ah, remember them:

'...the ascendant forces of know-nothingness...'

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tonight is your answer

It's hard to concentrate on literary things while history is being made. It felt like watching the end of a war seeing all those people, all those weeping, laughing people in Chicago's Grant Park today. Here's an eloquent article on about Obama's win calling it a political and generational transformation, and pointing out that 'Tuesday was the night that the 1960s - the divisive decade that defined American politics for 40 years - finally died.'

McCain in his gracious concession speech referred to the same thing: how far the US had come from those times but how they could still cause hurt, and - I think I understood him correctly - that America electing Obama was a way of assuaging that hurt.

And here's the whole of Obama's presidential victory speech - I recommend watching it if you missed it. His story of 106 year old Anne Nixon Cooper is close to genius. It was one of those incredible moments seeing him speak today (live on CNN) - knowing the words would echo down the corridors of years, and I would always remember sitting in my living room with my daughter and her friend watching Barack Obama deliver them.

Later: Sorry, here's Part 2 of the speech. The 106 year old's story is about 5 minutes in.

Limber Tongue

Few of the stories one has it in one’s self to speak get spoken, because the heart rarely confesses to intelligence its deeper needs; and few of the stories one has at the top of one’s head get told, because the mind does not always possess the voice for them; and even when the voice is there, and the tongue is limber as if with liquor — loud, lilting and Irish, or soothing and French, liquid and Italian, sweet as the Spanish lisp — where is that second ear? No court commands our entertainments, requires our flattery, needs our loyal enlargements or memorialising lies.

Literature once held families together better than quarrelling. It carved a common ancestry from mere air, peopling an often empty and forgotten past with gods, demons, worthy enemies and proper heroes, until it became largely responsible for that pride we sometimes feel in being Athenian or Basque, a follower or a fan. It’s no small gift, this sense of worth which reaches us ahead of any action of our own, like hair at birth, and makes brilliant enterprises possible.

William Gass

Couldn't resist this - it has been sent out just now in the regular newsletter from the International Institute of Modern Letters here in Wellington which is where I did my Creative Writing MA. Nice to be told literature is 'no small gift' when you're slogging away at home to get down two hundred words you're happy with by close of day.

William Gass's words are also apposite now with the United States waiting on the results of the polls with history ringing in its ears. Also ringing will be the stumbling words, the stories, the slippery language, the pleas, the assertions, and the oratory of politicians. One especially, Barack Obama: he of the 'limber' tongue.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

US Election

All eyes and all that. As the US prepares to vote for its 44th President, we hear that Obama's grandmother has died - the woman who raised him for eight years. Sad that she won't get to know the results of this election. Meanwhile NBR commentator David Cohen makes a prediction of an Obama win but not of Reagan proportions, wonders about the white Radio NZ line-up to cover the US Election, and suggests the amount of fainting in the Obama crowds might not be entirely accidental. I dunno, David, someone nearly fainted at my book launch - I think it happens in crowds (especially hot or excitable ones -mine was hot), and Obama has been at the centre of a lot of crowds lately. There were apparently 100,000 at his last speech.

Doing a quick trawl on You Tube I found this video made - it says - by a young black film-maker which seems to capture some of the feeling of the black population in the US about this man, Obama. Having said that, I'm always a little sceptical of You Tube stuff like this - it's hard to know where the truth ends and fantasy begins most of the time. Although this offering seems to speak for itself.

For the faint-hearted election watcher, Gordan Campbell on Scoop has produced a useful guide: How to Watch A US Election . Campbell will be reporting live tomorrow as the results come in. Go here for how a NZ writer [Paula Morris] will spend Election Day in the US. And here's a depressing video of average parking-lot Americans discussing Obama's 'terrorist bloodlines' [is it his father's middle name that gets them riled?]

For a good, healthy laugh, spot Sarah Palin and her running mate on a quick trip through NZ. I'll finish with the real thing (well, there's an element of fakery in this too - the two gents are a Quebec comedy duo notorious for prank calls to celebrities). And I'll continue to cross my fingers that, after tomorrow, this dreadful woman gives up and goes back where she came from, and Barack Obama has the win he deserves.

Late Breaking News: Just before midnight Tuesday night our time, a quick google of the US election revealed some polls were already open, and in the small New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch, it has opened and shut and the votes have been counted! The remote town traditionally opens its polls at midnight on election day. For the record, it was 15 ballots for Barack Obama and six for John McCain

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good in Black - Neil Gaiman on The Graveyard Book

I mentioned Neil Gaiman in my last post - having fallen on his high-energy blog in pursuit of interesting facts about Mary Poppins - and now, unexpectedly, I've read more about him on Beatties Bookblog and discovered this video of him talking about his latest sensation: The Graveyard Book.

The novel was written for Young Adults but apparently it has adults weeping at the end. As he says, it's like The Jungle Book in the way it can appeal to people of every age. Do have a peek - he's the next J.K. Rowling, says The Times, and he looks good in a leather jacket. The only downside is the interview's on the Borders website (with a different book cover for the UK.)

Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is - still according to The Times - 'an interlinked collection of tales about Nobody, a baby boy who escapes from the serial killer who murders his entire family, and is brought up in a graveyard by ghosts, vampires and werewolves. Like his bestselling children's novel Coraline (being filmed for release next year like his Stardust and Beowulf), it takes you into some scary places but, as he points out, what adults read as the most uncomfortable thing they can imagine, children take as a huge and thrilling adventure. '

If you go here you can see him reading the whole book chapter by chapter.