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In case you missed my extended fangirl squee a few weeks ago, Neil Gaiman came to lil’ ol’ Asheville, NC Sunday night. He was part of The Unchained Tour, a group of performers traveling around the South and telling stories. As founder and author George Dawes Green explained it, the tour was to bring awareness to local communities. First, they’re highlighting the necessity to get “unchained” from the big box bookstores and other stores and shop locally; and second, to get “unchained” from the internet and social media and interact with each other, especially in the format of storytelling.
The first storyteller and emcee was Peter Aguero. He and musician Rachel Kate kept us entertained in between stories. He also told a story about a Christmas with his mom a few years after his dad left. It was honest and heartfelt and funny and moving. His might have been our favorite story.
Next up was Dawn J. Fraser. She regaled us with a story about her dreams of running in the Olympics; how she came to acquire the nickname “Frizzled Fowl” (My husband was told in no uncertain terms that he will be killed if he ever looks at my hair and just thinks “Frizzled Fowl”); and how her twin brother, who has Down’s Syndrome, inspired her to get her life back on track after she was dealt a crushing blow. She was also funny and sincere and we just had to love her when she lapsed into a lilting Trinidadian accent.
And then came Edgar Oliver. Oh my. I’ve never heard a voice like his before, and Peter assured us beforehand that we were going to hear Edgar’s real speaking voice. I hate to say it, but he spoke too slowly even for my Southern ears. I kind of spaced out. I was aware of other people giggling in appropriate places though, so I feel sure I was in the minority. Check him out on Youtube.
Three audience members got to go on stage and tell one-minute stories each. They were good! I just sat in the audience and thought, “They just ruled out every Southerner in the audience. We can’t talk that fast, and we haven’t even introduced the story good in minute.” So it was funny when Peter advised the three volunteers that it’s a good idea to just tell the story and not waste the whole minute introducing the story they’re going to tell us. Oh yes, they’ve been traveling in the South. I did ponder what story I would tell, if I were a different person and actually inclined to get up in front of a crowd. I decided on Jennifer and Luis and the Armless, Legless, Headless Torso Ghost in Charleston. See what I mean? I couldn’t even get that title out in a minute!
Neil Gaiman closed out the show. I could just listen to the man all day. If you’ve never heard him narrate his own audiobooks, you should definitely check him out. I just love his voice. He touched on fathers and sons and their love even when they don’t understand each other. Again, his story was very touching, but his account of the things going through his head as he was forced to stand in the outfield in team sports as a kid had me cracking up! I leaned over to my husband and said, “See? I’m not the only one!” Luis has made the mistake of asking why on earth I was thinking about something and then actually listening as I followed the train of associations back. I think he’s finally learned his lesson on that one.
And that was the night. Gaiman didn’t do a signing, but he was kind enough to sign tons of copies for Malaprop’s before the show started so we at least had the opportunity to buy a signed copy. I got my *coughcoughthirdcoughcough* copy of Stardust. I would have grabbed a different book, but my big plan is to get Charles Vess to eventually sign this copy too. He only lives a couple of hours away and he’s been here before. I think my odds are pretty good. But, yeah, I’m feeling like a Catcher in the Rye conspiracy theorist now.
So, anyway, go check out their schedule on TheUnchainedTour.org. We had a blast and we definitely recommend the show. We were by turns laughing, thinking, dreaming, and so quiet you could hear a pin drop. When that happens, you know that the storytellers are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing; transporting you to another time and/or place.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.