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Man Eating Neil Gaiman

by Susan Henderson on August 31, 2006

Meet the man who’s eating the entire works of Neil Gaiman.

I’m sure there are many out there who’ve fantasized about having a little nibble on Neil Gaiman …..

Photo please:

(My my my. Thank you for the photo, Robin.)

….But one man has gone so far as to set a goal of eating (yes, digesting) the entire works of Neil Gaiman. And today I’m talking with him to find out why, and whether this will be the most memorable thing Howard Glassman ever does, or if there’s more to him.

I’m very interested in this strange project of yours because I used to be a compulsive brown-paper towel eater at my elementary school. I ate stacks of them at lunch time. I did it to get attention. Can you tell me why you’re eating Neil Gaiman?

When I started eating Neil Gaiman, I didn’t have a clear idea of why I was doing it. Writing about it online was obviously an attention grab, but the actual digestion was, and has continued to be, mostly a private activity. Sometimes, I do prepare and eat a paper meal in a public place, but if people look at me at all, they don’t register what they’re seeing. I’m not sure whether it’s too weird, or just too banal. Their eyes pass straight over me. I imagine their thoughts going something like this: “Gotta make my 3:00…potted plant, bench, man with food…and hit the grocery store later. Dog on a leash…where did I park my car?…sticky little kid.” People make a constant stream of observations on their surroundings, but it’s almost entirely subconscious. Unless something is exceptionally alarming or interesting, it’s barely a blip on the radar.

Why am I doing it? I still don’t know for sure. I want to take something enjoyable and make it a part of me. I want to do something nobody has thought of before. I want to keep observing people, and seeing how much I can get away with before someone sits up and takes notice.

I want to feel new and different, I think.

How did you think of doing this, and who encouraged/discouraged you along the way? (My dad, for example, the day I brought some paper towels home and showed him my skill, told me to knock it off. Soon, my joy in eating paper towels was lost. Squashed.)

The idea first entered my head when I was doing the dishes. I was thinking about taking a trip, maybe somewhere sunny, but I couldn’t get away from work. “I can’t remember the last journey I took that wasn’t an imaginary one,” I thought. “Books are all very well, but you don’t have anything to show for it once they’re gone. Not even a lousy T-shirt.”

I don’t remember the exact thought process, after that, but it ended with the idea that if I could make the books part of me, the journey wouldn’t have to end. I dismissed it as silly, at first. It wasn’t till several weeks later that I decided on an author and began to eat.

In the real world, nobody knows what I am doing. I work in a fairly casual office, but it’s not what you’d call a whimsical crowd. I don’t think it would be good for my colleagues to start thinking of me as the guy who eats books.

Online, I have received both encouragement and discouragement from strangers. The first e-mail I got was quite angry: the sender felt, among other things, that I was desecrating books. Since then, I’ve received mostly supportive messages. A few people have even tried my recipes (minus the paper). Since most of those recipes come from my mother, I’m pleased and flattered to hear they are being enjoyed.

How far have you gotten, and how are you doing physically?

I’m almost a month into my book banquet, and I’ve eaten two complete books (“Coraline” and “Neverwhere”). A few days ago, I started on the paperback edition of “American Gods.”

At first, I was guzzling down paper all on its own, up to 40 pages a day. I was feeling pretty sick. I soon realized that wasn’t going to work, and started cooking the paper along with actual food. It’s much slower this way, but if I’m going to make it through Gaiman’s entire oeuvre, I have to keep my stomach happy. Right now, I’m feeling great. I don’t know if it’s the paper, or just that I’ve been getting more exercise now that spring is on the way, but I’ve even lost a few pounds.

Any highlights so far?

I’ve been enjoying my Gaiman diet immensely (apart from a few notable culinary flops), but the soups have been my favorites. The paper goes down much more smoothly after simmering in broth for several hours. It’s very filling, as well. Paper soup is a surprisingly satisfying meal.

Which tasted better and which were easier to digest: the novels, short stories, graphic novels?

I haven’t eaten any of the graphic novels yet, but I can tell you one thing: new books taste worlds better than ones you’ve had boxed up in your basement for months.

[Any doctors out there want to comment on the effects of ingesting the amount of ink in SANDMAN?]

Tell me your ultimate goal and how you’ll celebrate.

My ultimate goal is to eat everything Neil Gaiman has written: novels, short stories, graphic novels, you name it. I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen when I’m done, but I’ve been thinking of it as my own epic journey. Gaiman’s characters always go on these rambling, grandiose personal quests: why not me?

I haven’t thought about how I’ll celebrate. My goal is a long way off, and I don’t know where the quest will have taken me, by then.

When you’re not eating Neil Gaiman, what else do you do?

As you might have guessed, I’m an avid reader. I also belong to a powerwalk group, which meets every Thursday and Sunday in the park. (I usually go on Sundays.) I play squash and racquetball, and I think there’s a stamp collection moldering away somewhere in my study. But most of my time is spent at work. I was fortunate enough to find a job I love, and a great group of co-workers, so I don’t mind sinking a lot of time into it.

What do you hope Neil thinks of you and your project?

As long as he doesn’t see it as some kind of cannibalism in absentia, I’m okay. I would hope he’d find it entertaining, and maybe even fascinating.

[You’re welcome to weigh-in, Neil. Entertaining? Fascinating? Other?]

Howard, I hope you’ll stop back in when you’re near the end of your quest. And when you eat TROLL BRIDGE, just remember, it’s my favorite.

*

Well now. In unrelated news, if you’re in NYC tonight (March 30th), I hope you’ll catch the very last one-woman show of YOU MUST TAKE THE A TRAIN, starring the cutest person I’ve ever known–my friend Lindsay Brandon Hunter. The show is billed as a comedy, but you’ll cry, too. Tickets: $5. Run time: 1 hour. Starts: 9:30pm at The People’s Improv Theater. For more info, call 212-563-7488.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

DJ _ September 10, 2007 at 2:26 pm

I’m not so sure “cannibalism in absentia” would bother Neil so much, actually. He strikes me as the type that would find it funny…

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