"American Gods" author prepares for hellish schedule
By Rod Smith
After nearly 14 years in the greater metro, Neil Gaiman has us sussed. "Minneapolis isn't so small that everyone knows everyone else," he says, settling into an old stenographer's chair in the back room of Dreamhaven Books, where several stacks of volumes wait for his autograph. "But you don't have to be here long to realize that everyone in theater knows everyone in theater, the writers know all the other writers, everybody used to be musicians--and they've all had sex with each other."
Clad in his usual head-to-toe black, his rock star coif showing the faintest trace of gray, the 45-year-old writer faces a busy autumn, anchored by U.S. and U.K. signing tours in support of the newly published trans-dimensional comedy of manners, The Anansi Boys.
The new work features a crucial cameo from Mr. Nancy, the dandyish human manifestation of West African trickster god Anansi who first appeared in 2001's American Gods. Otherwise, however, Anansi has little in common with its predecessor.
"American Gods was meant to make people think," he says, taking a sip of tea, "and to be a road trip, a long wild ride. And you're supposed to come out of it thinking, 'Oh my God, that's over and I'm not the same person I was when I started reading that book.' With Anansi Boys, I'm perfectly happy if you're exactly the same person you were when you started it. I just want you to get that feeling you get coming out of a great Shakespeare comedy or whatever, feeling the world is right and things have worked out as they were meant to."
Gaiman isn't exactly the person he was when he started writing the book in 2003, after a meningitis attack led him to recuperate at friend's home in Florida. He's been seeing a personal trainer in preparation for the U.S. reading and signing tour that ends at the Mall of America on October 10. "It's not the hours that get to you," he says, "but the simple fact of signing your name for six hours straight. I find myself drawing, adding little doodles, which people think is really nice of me. They don't realize that I'm just trying to introduce a little variety into the routine, to keep my muscles from cramping up."
Neither tours nor Mirrormask, the new film scripted by Gaiman and directed by long-time collaborator Dave McKean, can stop the fabulist from dwelling in the future. After finishing at Camp Snoopy (he also plans to read at Dreamhaven after he gets back from England), Gaiman will spend a few days with his family before rushing off to the set of Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf, for which he co-wrote the script.
"I'm allowed to say that it has Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, Robin Wright Penn, Brendan Gleason," he says. "I'm not allowed to say any of the other people until their names get leaked from other sources. Beowulfis scheduled for 2007 release, as are two other page-to-screen projects--Death, an adaptation of his Sandman comic, and Coraline, based on his like-titled children's book. "2007 is going to look a lot like now. You won't be able to move without bumping into a fucking Neil Gaiman movie and people will think I was incredibly busy in early 2007. In actual fact, it's nine years worth of stuff coincidentally all coming out at the same time."