Saturday, January 29, 2011

An eerie Neil Gaiman moment

Today I read one of the most bizarre disturbing things I've ever read.
I read Neil Gaiman's blog often. He is one of the writers who inspires me to write over and over. And in his fiction there are often disturbing moments. But this is not fiction.  This is not fantasy or horror.  This is disturbing because Neil was disturbed. As an author, I could feel viscerally what he felt.  If you are an author you will too. I will never forget this.
  I quote the experience here because I'm afraid you might not take the time to read it if you have to click a link.  Every writer should read this. Every reader should read this - in fact every human being should read this. 
From Neil in Australia:

"I wandered past sushi shops and backpacker places and Thai takeways and tobacconists in the hot Sydney summer evening sun. Last night Amanda (who is vastly amused by my complete lack of hooker recognition skills) had pointed out the hookers to me, and I saw a couple of the ladies she had pointed out to me coming on duty, looking wary in the daylight.

There were a couple - a man and a woman, both in their twenties at a guess, both shorter than I am and dark-haired, looking into a shop window, with their backs to me. The woman had a tattoo on her shoulderblade - writing - and because I cannot pass writing without reading it, I glanced at it. Part of the writing was covered by a strap.

But I could still read it. And I knew what the words covered by the strap were.

The tattoo was a lot like this (which is to say, the same content, and similar typeface, but probably not the same person. I'm already trying to remember if it was the left or the right shoulderblade):

(I took that photo from here. (Thank you Google Image Search)

I read the tattoo, read words I had written to try and exorcise my own small demons eighteen years ago, and I felt like a ghost. As if, for a moment, under the hot Sydney sun, I was only an idea of a person and not a real person at all.

I didn't introduce myself to her or say anything (it didn't even occur to me to say hello, in all honesty). I just walked home, through a world that felt flimsier and infinitely stranger than it had that morning.

I don't know why it affected me like that. But it did."  -- Neil Gaiman, January 25,2011 2:12 am

Is this something you would like to encounter as a writer?  Or is would such an experience totally unhinge you, as it seemed to do to Neil, and alter your perspective on your place in or out of reality?


  1. Thanks for sharing that, Gail. I'm going to add Neil's blog to my list.

  2. ...Gaiman's blog is on my favorite's list, and yes, I also read this post. In answer to the question, yes, I'd like very much to see that my words so influenced a reader, that she felt compelled to have it scribed upon her flesh. I suspect the moment would be memorable, if not surreal in its purity. Kudos to Neil for achieving such success:)
    Lovely post, Gail.

  3. This is what I was talking about when I was speaking of others emulating us...but not specifically about writers and their work:

    But as both an artist and a writer, while I want to impact people, I AM bothered when I find my own sense of symbol/sigil is stolen by someone else "...because it's cool..." or whatever.



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