A Ne(a/i)l Weekend

Two of my favorite authors on the planet were in D.C. this weekend: Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman. They were both featured writers at the “National Book Festival”:http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/ on the Mall, and Stephenson also had a reading at the Olsson’s bookstore up the street from where I live.

Unfortunately I only had time to hit the book-signing line for Neil G. He signed _American Gods_ and the Midsummer Night’s Dream issue of _Sandman_ for me, and _Wolves in the Walls_ for Ella. He even drew a sketch of a wolf on _Wolves_, which he promised to make not so scary since Ella’s only ten months old. I was surprised at his accent, which is silly since I know perfectly well that he’s British. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t sound all that British on “his blog”:http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp. Or maybe he cranks up the ol’ Albion twang when he’s signing stuff.

Neal S. read and answered questions at Olsson’s and just did Q&A on the Mall. He behaved exactly as I imagined he would — a little reserved, but direct and articulate, and very smart. He didn’t start a sentence until he knew exactly where it was going to end up. “Not surprisingly”:http://www.polytropos.org/archives/000123.html, I asked him a “what do you think of the Pynchon comparisons” question, which for the most part he artfully dodged, though he did say he considered T.P. to be “one of the greats.” I’m only a little ways into _The System of the World_ right now, and there’s a very good chance that when I get to the end I’m going to go right back and read the whole Baroque Cycle over again. When I had him sign the Cycle books at the bookstore, I asked him to write the Liebniz quote, “Whatever acts cannot be destroyed,” in parts across all three books. He seemed quite pleased by that idea, but today when I asked him to write “ignoti et quasi occulti” on _Cryptonomicon_, he seemed more taken aback. He did write it, but followed it with a dash roughly crossed by an exclamation mark. I have no idea what that means, though now I know what I’ll put in the “draw our secret symbol” box of my Societas Eruditorum membership application.

If absolutely none of that made any sense to you, you’ve got some reading to do.