|Neil Gaiman: ‘Tristram Shandy is a novel I approve of and keep meaning to read. I just haven’t read it.’ Photograph: Tim Knox/The Guardian|
Neil Gaiman: 'Narnia made me want to write, to do that magic trick'
The author on his friendship with Gene Wolfe, crying over Diana Wynne Jones and falling under the spell of CS Lewis
Friday 9 October 2020
The book that changed my life
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. It’s brilliant, much more brilliant than I knew when I read it for the first time. I would not be the writer I am without Wolfe’s friendship, or without taking his lesson that you should write to be reread with increased pleasure by a smart reader.
The book I wish I’d written
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. It’s the great English fantasy novel, about the prosaic land next to the wilderness of Faerie. It’s a history and a murder mystery, and it’s about family and dissatisfaction, and about fairy fruit, which, as with all good fantasy, stands both for itself and for poetry, and sexuality, and the things that leave us changed forever.
The book that influenced my writing
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis. I read it when I was six, and fell in love with Narnia and with the magical story and most of all with the auctorial voice. Lewis seemed to be having a wonderful time writing, confiding in and treating the readers as if they were smart friends. It was the first time I was ever aware that there was a person behind the words. It made me want to write. It made me want to do that magic trick.
The last book that made me cry
Reading Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody to my daughter Maddy, some 15 years ago. I got to the book’s end and we both had very wet faces.
• Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, is published by Bloomsbury (£12.99).