Before I start, let me just say that in general I really like Neil Gaiman as a writer. While his Sandman comics bored the crap out of me, I think he is a fantastic short story writer- Smoke and Mirrors is an amazing compilation and A Study in Emerald is a mind-blowingly good short story, utterly deserving of the Hugo it won. His young adult fiction is pretty good, too. Finally, on a personal level, I don't know the man at all.
Now that that's out of the way, I'll begin. The other night, my wife and I were drinking (her wine, and me this delicious organic pale ale that was so good I had another just before beginning this blog) and talking (and anyone who knows me will affirm I love to talk, more so when I've been drinking, but quite a bit regardless) and the thing we were talking about was the cult of personality, how in order to further their art (and eat), it's necessary for artists nowadays to commodify themselves, often to a degree that the artist becomes more important than the art. I mean, c'mon now, in what sane universe is an author's name five times bigger than the title of their book? As I slurred, quite seriously, to my wife "So and So, he's a great writer, but in the end tally he's just some schlub who sits in front of a typewriter and lays down sentences. It's the work that's important, not the writer. For all I know he could be a big jackass." (Note: I was not talking about Neil Gaiman, and I'm not just saying that to cover up that I was. Because I wasn't. Rest assured, Mr. Gaiman comes into play shortly.)
To this my wife replied something to the effect that I was full of it, and that If I had the chance to sit down for dinner or drinks with an author whose work I admired, I would jump at the chance."Maybe," I said,"but it's hard to think who it would be."
"Gene Wolfe?" she offered helpfully.
"Nope. The work is the man as far as I'm concerned."
"Nah. I'm sure he's interesting but, honestly, he terrifies me. Besides, once again, the man is the work, and the work is the man for me."
Here it comes.
"How about Neil Gaiman?"
"No. Actually, yeah. Yeah I would like to sit down with Neil Gaiman. Because, y'know what? I'd like to ask him why the hell he (or more likely his publisher, but it's N-e-i-l G-a-i-m-a-n, he's hardly powerless in these matters)keeps using that same damned author photo of him with the black leather jacket and the hipster hairstyle that has been on his books since the early nineties. I mean,Jesus (I pronounced it heysoos) Christ, the man is nearly fifty, and I know he's cut his hair. Use a new photo, willya? Or, better yet, none at all. And the jacket's got to go. Really, every photo? Really? I'm sure you're cool Mr. Gaiman (yes, you're over 45 and I don't know you so you're Mr. Gaiman)but you're in danger of becoming a Neil Gaiman Halloween costume. Change it. Please."
I actually went on for quite a bit longer than this, but I'll assume you're not imbibing any alcohol, and we'll all pretend I stopped there. My wife, God love her, actually listened to the entire rant. She was appreciative, but she doubted my resolve.
"You mean to say that if you got a chance to have drinks with Neil Gaiman, you'd hassle him about his author photo?"
"I swear to God I'd do it," I said, and I finished my beer in one contented swig.