When the “Sandman” author Neil Gaiman was approached in 2013 about reading “A Christmas Carol” at the New York Public Library, his requirements were simple.
“Only if I can have a beard and a top hat,” he recalled saying.
On Dec. 18 and 19, Gaiman, beard and top hat intact, will again conjure up Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, this time at Town Hall.
“I’m terrified,” he admitted in a video interview from his home in Woodstock, N.Y., before talking about his affection for “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Doctor Who.” “Perhaps I should have retired, undefeated. But it’s fun doing something that’s a bit terrifying sometimes.”
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
‘What We Do in the Shadows’
The film was an absolute and utter delight. I managed to take a couple of people to it who didn’t know that it was going to be a vampire movie, and by the time they realized it was a vampire movie, they were laughing too hard. When the TV series came along, I spent the first few episodes going, “But it’s not the film.” Then somewhere in there realized that I was in love with what they were doing.
I remember Twitter in 2008 when it was this odd little place that weirdos got together. It didn’t feel like the kind of place that you could use to subvert democracy, and you weren’t arguing with Nazis. I tried various other options, and the one that I like best right now is Bluesky, because the people there seem fairly nice.
The Magnetic Fields
Well, all Stephin Merritt bands, really. Maybe 1995 or ’96, I subscribed to the Hello CD of the Month Club and one day it was the Gothic Archies. I discovered Merritt was the mind behind these sort of upbeat songs about death and ordered my first few Magnetic Fields albums. “69 Love Songs” became the thing that I played for about two years while I was writing “American Gods.”
Rereading Gene Wolfe
About five years ago, the Folio Society asked me to write the introduction to “The Book of the New Sun,” a series of four books. I wound up realizing that I’ve read them probably once a decade since I was about 19. And the books are deeper, wiser, much more deceptive and much better crafted than I knew they were. He’s a very tricky writer who pretends to have nothing up his sleeve and then does magic.
‘The Illustrators: The British Art of Illustration’
The catalog for this annual exhibition at Chris Beetles Gallery in London is beautiful, and there’s a little price list, which always makes me sad because unerringly at the point where I go, “The one thing that I’d like in this catalog is that,” I’ll go down the prices: “Oh, I can afford that. I can afford that. Now No. 81 is — yeah, not getting that.”
I loved “Doctor Who” growing up. In fact, the moment that I felt probably most like God was in 2009, getting to write my first episode. But the trouble with me having written a couple of episodes is that my 8-year-old is now convinced that I must be in charge of “Doctor Who.” He’ll come over to me and say, “Dad, this needs to happen.”
Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon
They wrote books together, and one of their two works of absolute genius was “No Bed for Bacon,” which actually achieved a small amount of fame when “Shakespeare in Love” came out because there were many similarities, most of which were more about the attitude to the way you could write about Shakespeare in a sort of slightly cockeyed, modern, cutting-everything-down-to-size kind of way.
The BBC Sounds Comedy Channel
I tend to use it at night when I need to unwind enough to go to sleep. I just started relistening to “Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics” — a stand-up comedian who is also a classical scholar talking about some Latin or Greek person, mythological thing, place. It’s fabulous.
Charles Addams at the New York Public Library
I remember discovering that if you went up to the third floor on the way to the men’s toilets there was a little room with Charles Addams cartoons on display. I would go there four times a year and the cartoons would be changed out. Then one day they were putting them away. It was explained to me that the artwork had been a loan by his ex-wife. But the agreement was that as soon as everything had been displayed, it was over. I still think that’s heartbreaking.
‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’
Peter Greenaway manages to make a film about murder, cannibalism, exploitation, brutality and monstrousness somehow feel like a Baroque painting combined with a Renaissance painting combined with Arcimboldo’s food paintings that you almost want to eat in front of you.