When I thought of having Neil Gaiman visit LitPark, I wondered, What of Neil hasn’t already been covered? I could say something about his storytelling, naturally, or how he’s the one author who lives on both my bookshelf and Mr. Henderson’s. I could say something about the characters he writes, like Dearly and The Runt, who sort of crawl into my brain and live there even after their stories end. But people write these things about Neil Gaiman all the time.

So I thought, When I talk to other people about Neil Gaiman, where does the conversation tend to go? Easy. In the end, I don’t tend to tell people the very private and permanent ways his writing takes hold of me. I tend to talk about his hair.

Neil was such a good sport about this. Ready?

*

A Photo History of Neil Gaiman’s Hair:

In Sussex, aged about 22 months. Waiting for my sister to be born. Such a neat child (although I’ve probably been dressed by my grandmother). You pushed the roundabout around until it went fast and then you jumped on. Or you tripped and were pulled around, face-down, skinning your knees.

About three? Down at the bottom of the garden in Purbrook, in Hampshire, on the swing.

Mr. Punch territory. My paternal grandfather, me and my cousin Sara, on the seafront in Southsea. July 1963.

My sister, my mother, her mother and me. September 1963.

When about 4 or 5, my hair was bothering me, so I took matters into my own hands. I found a pair of scissors, climbed into bed, got under the sheets, to hide, I suspect, and gave myself a haircut. It was the sort of haircut you give yourself in the dark under your sheets at the age of 5. This was after the attempt to repair it by my father.

I’m not sure that hair particularly made much of an impression on me until I was in my teens. From age 9 to 13 it was something that the school barber cut once a month or so (except in school holidays), and that teachers grabbed by the place the sideburns would one day be in order to make a point. Like Newt in Good Omens, the best I could hope for from a haircut was shorter hair. I had my fair share of ears snipped by scissors and clippers, to the point where I’d be wary of hair cuts.My father bought a “home hair cutting” kit once. It was an evil plastic device that looked like a comb with razor blades in it, which he would use to cut our hair. The idea was that he’d drag the comb through your hair and you’d magically get a great haircut. In reality the razor blades hurt as they dragged and scraped across the hair, and you wound up looking like your dad had given you a haircut with something advertised on TV.

Graham, Geoff, Neil, AlI was sixteen. Shortly after this photograph was taken Geoff (then a drummer, now a meteor hunter) and I bleached our hair. We wanted to look like Billy Idol. His hair went sort of blonde. Mine went ginger. Following a disagreement with my father, in which phrases like “you are not staying here with hair that colour” may have been used, I borrowed a tub of raven black from my cousin and was delighted, the following morning, to discover that I now had black hair with purple highlights, which was, I decided, the best of all worlds.

Douglas Adams and me in 1983. I’m 22, still smoking and wearing colours. Douglas is playing guitar while we wait for the photographer, John Copthorne, to finish setting up. (Douglas is playing Marvin’s “How I Hate the Night” song.)

I think this was taken the day before Maddy was born in August 1994. I’d decided I wasn’t going to get a haircut or shave until she turned up. Or something like that. I’d grown some pumpkins for practically the first time.

I got to England to work on Neverwhere and found everyone had shorter hair than I did. So I walked into a barber’s on the corner and asked them to cut my hair. They did. 1995, per the postmark.

Me and Clive Barker circa 1996. Two very scary people in leather jackets. Look! We are so scary! Photo by Beth Gwinn. Tee-shirt by Jenny Holzer.

Gaiman, Gaiman, 1998.

*

Neil, with his busy schedule, did not need to take the time to search for and scan in photos for me, but he did. And if there’s anything you should know about Neil Gaiman it’s this: Though he has the most glorious head of hair, he could lose all of it tomorrow and really lose nothing at all.

 

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , ,

SUSAN HENDERSON is the author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins, 2010) and founder of the blog, LitPark, a literary playground for writers.

48 responses to “LitPark Interview: Neil Gaiman”

  1. I’ve met Neil several times (my favorite was the first time, at the Bottom Line bar, when he read at a Magnetic Fields concert. I went into utter fanboy catatonia), and got a terrific postcard when I sent him a copy of my collection; he might just be the nicest guy on the planet, not to mention one of the most prodigiously talented storytellers. He and Chabon strike me as sides of a coin at times, but I much prefer Neil’s books; Anansi Boys is a seriously great novel, and its audiobook accompanied my sister and I all the way from Jersey to LA on a four-day roadtrip several years ago.

    Nice interview, too. I don’t think I’d seen that Barker photo before, but yes, it’s absolutely terrifying. There should be a disclaimer about how scary that photo is; it may keep small children’s parents up at night. Though not small children. They’ll be too busy reading The Graveyard Book.

    • Susan Henderson says:

      Fun to hear your stories, Will! Isn’t it the best when someone is talented and achieves so much but is still so generous?

      (P.S. I think the Barker photo’s kind of cute.)

  2. jmblaine says:

    Mr. Punch is one of my most very favorite books
    of all time.

    Neil Gaiman’s Hair
    could be a
    shoe-gazer
    slash
    Cure
    tribute
    band.

    As could
    Fat Bob

  3. Megan DiLullo says:

    Great concept, Susan. I love it. And I do adore Neil Gaiman.

    And JMB, How about a tribute band called Neil Gaiman’s Hair. His words, the lyrics.

  4. Simone says:

    This was a great piece, Susan. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ve only recently become a Neil Gaiman fan, thanks to Will. I have to agree with Will, from reading Neil’s blog, he does seem like the nicest person ever!

  5. Ducky says:

    I must confess, I’ve never read Gaiman’s work, but I just added Mr. Punch to my wishlist. My very first rock band was called Punch and Judy, so I figured that was the right book for me. Love discovering new writers. Thanks!

  6. Susan Henderson says:

    What a great name for a band. What did you play?

  7. Mary says:

    Oh, how cool is this?! Very fun!

  8. As my own hair is now to my waist in the back (wispy and pitiful attempt…so baby fine) I really loved reading this wonderful article…whose “roots” are intertwined with mine…in a funny way. I lived in England for years…and cherish all things British for many personal reasons…not the least of two being my youngest children…born in East Anglia in the Norfolk/Suffolk area. Second “hair tie” is the rock and roll link…where a long haired handsome man captured my heart decades ago. Thirdly…a long time ago…I asked a gentleman whose tuft of chest hair was proudly displayed within the open neck of his shirt…”why he was such a hairy guy” ? His reply the following day was an animated albeit verbal reply…whose words verbatim are most well known as being the title song for the musical “Hair”. Seriously…there is little else nature has provided that usurps the glimmer of shiny…clean and well cared for hair. I hope my little “Lady Godiva” photo next year for my birthday…taken from the back side at my ripe old age (of course) will become a favored memory. Thank you again for sharing this wonderful tribute to a phenomenally talented individual. Much better read than the article I wrote aptly titled “I Have The Feet Of A Saint Bernard Puppy” .

  9. Joseph4th says:

    I too have met Neil several times, including an early 90’s San Diego comic con where I managed to grab his panel name paper which he doodled a self-portrait on the back of. You can see it here on my blog here:

    http://working-as-designed.blogspot.com/2009/08/into-deep-dark-burning-depths-i.html

    I have often wondered about his hair as it always seemed to be just a tad too long for the lack of combing or product that was applied… or not applied I guess I should say. It apparently works for him so I’ve kept quite on the matter.

    -Joseph-

  10. […] at The Nervous Breakdown. So I thought, When I talk to other people about Neil Gaiman, where does the conversation tend to […]

  11. sharon says:

    Didn’t Neil Gaiman once auction off his locks for charity at some science fiction/fantasy convention?

  12. Billy Bones says:

    Absolutely delightful. Thanks for this!

  13. What a great article. 🙂 Neil’s one of my absolute favorite writers, (and now I’ve gotten our daughter to start reading him (instead of that vile Twilight stuff)), and I was stoked to see that he knows/knew two of my other favorite writers, namely mr. Adams and mr. Barker. 🙂

  14. A Hair-ography of people we admire. A book that needs to be written! Go Susan!

    • LitPark says:

      A hair-ography is a brilliant idea!

      Once someone brought a coffee table book to our house that had everyone absolutely entranced. It was photographs of famous authors – the only one I can even think of now is Lucy Grealy and the guy who’s always shown with his dogs. Wish they’d left the book.

  15. Ha! This has to be one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen.

  16. Janine says:

    Well, as a Neil Gaiman groupie, I have to say I really appreciate the pics here! What
    an adorable kid he was, too….sigh….I’m in love… LOL

  17. […] Jr. and Tod Goldberg. But it’s still sort of a collective effort — a discussion with Neil Gaiman about his hair was a blog post — although the collection of writers steering things is now nearly 200 […]

  18. Kelly says:

    How fun! Neil is a great choice for an interview~ Somehow these photos are more telling than and Q&A!

  19. Irene Zion says:

    Holy Toledo!
    How could I have missed this?

    I ADORE Neil Gaiman.
    I even read his kids’ stuff.
    He’s a genius!
    Thanks for the interview, Susan!
    Good job!

  20. Dana says:

    Cool! Okay, enough is enough. I’m ordering up some Gaiman.

  21. Jessica Blau says:

    I love this! The photos are great. Especially love the photo of him with his dad and his dad’s got the cigarette dangling out of his hand. You never see pictures of people with their kids with their cigs. Everyone hides the cigs now (or maybe they hide the kids).

    My hair history: 1. Wispy, blondish, barely grew in. 2. At six my sister convinced me to get a “pixie” cut. 3. My mother took me to a barber who shaved it up the back. 4. Went to first grade class and all the kids whispered around the room, “Who’s the new boy in class?” 5. Haven’t cut it since. Seriously. Just a trim every now and then. Do you think it’s time I get over that first grade trauma?

  22. free shipping DSLR camera…

    […]Susan Henderson | A Photo History of Neil Gaiman’s Hair | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

  23. Russell says:

    Love the scans from 1963 pics of Neil with mum and grandma. Neil and I share the same grandma and i am sure I have some similar pics hanging around somewhere.

    I was in Portsmouth yesterday and It was great to spend some time chatting to Neil and to hear him read from two of his amazing books at the Guildhall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *