Neil Gaiman has spent a career mapping out the myths that make our world worth living in.
A cartographer of the fantastical, terrifying, chaotic, and sublime world beneath our waking life, he perfected the graphic novel into a work of high literary art with The Sandman (1989-96), an epic 75-part comic-book series about the adventures of an unlikely hero named Dream, who is the very personification of dreaming. (He’s the baby brother of Death, a charming, perky, and likable, if awfully pale, antiheroine.)
On Thursday, Gaiman, 51, delivered the commencement address at the University of the Arts’ graduation ceremony, where he also was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in fine arts.
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you: your voice, your mind, your story, your vision,” the British-born, Minneapolis-based novelist and screenwriter told the 526 newly minted graduates.
“So write and draw and dance and play as only you can. ... Leave the world more interesting for your being here.”
In a sweet bit of irony that he pointed out to his audience, Gaiman never attended college.
Like fellow comic-book pioneer and friend Alan Moore (The Watchman), Gaiman is an autodidact who has mastered an impressive range of literary, artistic, and philosophical subjects without any formal education.
“I learnt to write by writing,” said Gaiman, whose works include more than half a dozen traditional prose novels, including Neverwhere (1996), Anansi Boys (2005), and The Graveyard Book (2008), the first novel ever to be awarded both the Carnegie and Newbery medals.
Two other books, Stardust (1998) and Coraline (2002), have been adapted into hit films, while his extraordinary dissection of American myths, 2001’s American Gods, is being adapted into an HBO series.
Gaiman flew into town Wednesday morning with his wife, singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer, who is about to launch a world tour. (“I’ll have 18 months where I don’t have to be anywhere,” Gaiman said of her impending departure.)
Not the least bit nervous on the eve of what he admitted was his very first commencement address, Gaiman took some time out for a chat about his growing body of children’s books, including Graveyard, which is being adapted into a film by Coraline director Henry Selick.