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Originally published Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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Elliott Bay Book Co., Neil Gaiman celebrated in Seattle

Last week in Seattle saw a couple of lively literary love fests — Elliott Bay Book Company’s birthday celebration and a reading and book-signing by superstar author Neil Gaiman.

Seattle Times book editor

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Lit Life

Your Lit Life correspondent has hermetic tendencies, but last week she was drawn out and about by a couple of literary events I won’t soon forget. Here are recaps:

Elliott Bay 40th anniversary: The Elliott Bay Book Co. had two 40th birthday parties: a public affair Saturday night, June 29, and a June 30 evening event — a valentine to people who have helped make the store and Seattle’s lit life what it is.

Spotted in the crowd at the latter: authors Sherman Alexie, Ryan Boudinot, Carol Cassella, Bill Gates Sr., David Guterson, Colleen McElroy, Tom Robbins, Maria Semple, Jim Wickwire, David B. Williams. Open Books: A Poem Emporium owners and poets John W. Marshall and Christine Deavel. Washington state poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken.

Also there: creators/sustainers of literary Seattle, including literary agent Elizabeth Wales and Random House sales representative Katie Mehan. Sasquatch Books publisher Gary Luke. Third Place Books’ managing partner Robert Sindelar. Town Hall program manager Stesha Brandon. Chris Higashi of the Washington Center for the Book/Seattle Public Library. Elliott Bay booksellers Rick Simonson, Tracy Taylor and Karen Maeda Allman. Stranger book editor Paul Constant(also a former Elliott Bay employee).

American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher was on hand to present Elliott Bay owner P eter Aaron with a banner emblazoned with this message: “Eat Read Sleep Local / The Elliott Bay Book Company / Seattle, Wa. / 1973-2013.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If I missed you there, sorry! I’m myopic and short.

Neil Gaiman: Journalists are supposed to keep the objectivity shield locked and in place when it comes to their subjects, but I hereby lower mine for one minute to rave about author Neil Gaiman, a charming, fabulously talented individual whose generosity seems to know no bounds.

Gaiman was in Seattle last week, donating his time to teach a weeklong class at Clarion West, Seattle’s prestigious science-fiction workshop. OK, that’s nice? Well, bear in mind that Gaiman’s new novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” is Number Three on the Publishers’ Weekly best-seller list, that Walt Disney Pictures has acquired the movie rights to his Newbery Medal-winning novel “The Graveyard Book” and that he has been on a multicity, international (U.S.-Canada-U.K.) book tour, staying up as late as 3 a.m. signing books. On Tuesday night he told a rapt Town Hall crowd of 900 to 1,000 that at a book signing in California, he actually went to sleep while signing books and was startled awake when the pen hit the table (he says this is his last tour to sign books).

Gaiman, 52, responded to audience questions. Does he ever fear death?, he was asked. A master of fantasy and horror, he’s certainly written about it.

Gaiman rambled on a bit, talking about a white-knuckle plane ride in 1988 where, carrying one-of-a-kind manuscript materials, he experienced “weird authorial oblivion.” Then he said that he doesn’t worry much about dying because he’s done so much of what he wanted to do.

“I’ve scratched my name on the desk ... I was definitely here,” he said.

Time spiraled backward, and I could see a black-haired English boy of 8 or so, digging words and pictures with his pencil into an old wooden school desk. These things do happen. Gaiman signed the last book at 1:38 a.m.

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or mgwinn@seattletimes.com. Gwinn appears every Tuesday on TVW’s “Well Read,” discussing books with host Terry Tazioli (go to www.tvw.org/shows/well-read for archived episodes). On Twitter @gwinnma.

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