Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
Before we break into bullets, let's crack open the mystifying task of classifying this fable.  First of all, I only think classifying of this type is useful when it spares someone from material they would rather not have read, orrrr when it helps me harness a picnic basket of books under a single banner.  So guys, strictly speaking, this title has been marketed for adults.  But the tone and style is so YA, plus there's Gaiman's whole argument on exposing children to darkness.*  Bullet time;
  • While there are sophisticated references to the metaphysical and teasing allusions to the fantastical that surrounds us, there are also injections of whimsy here and there, much like The Graveyard Book.
  • But there is no doubt that this book is more disturbing.  Where TGB succeeds in being 1 part horrifying and 9 parts black comedy, this book is 5 and 5...with 5 of those horrifying parts also being disturbing / haunting / awful (including a sex scene and suicide).  For this reason, I would not recommend the book to anyone under 15.  That said, I felt Gaiman dealt with these things in a way that would allow an adult to glean and feel more from the things described than a younger reader would, exposed to the same content.  And...I've read other novels that claim they are for young adults that have content that is so much worse, it is sickening.  So, if this had been classed as YA instead, I would not have contested it, I simply would have added that by me, "older YA."
  • I think this is a combination of The Graveyard Book and On the Edge (Ilona Andrews).  It is interesting to me, that two trusted sources of recommendations asked if I'd read this yet after recently appreciating the talent of De Goldi in The 10pm Question.   Both feature a young male narrator attempting to find a place in or outside of his family, rife with insecurity and uncertainty.  Both protagonists befriend a girl that opens their eyes to a world beyond their confinement.  I see all this.  Please don't misunderstand me, neither Recommend-or claimed these books were readalikes, both simply brought them up soon after De Goldi.  Know now: these two novels share the points mentioned (and some strong humour), but are so different in tone and feel.  But both have a lot to say.
  • Apart from the aforementioned disturbing content, there are also a few points that are strikingly sad about the (mostly flashback-) narrator's life.  It's a melancholy book.  But Gaiman is pretty tasteful.  Cussing?  Nope.  Violence?  All referenced and restrained rather than explored.
  • Gaiman impresses me.  I didn't want to stop reading, and I felt I was masterfully transported elsewhere.
  • I think this book is great to talk about in terms of parable / fable / moral / meaning.  And I intend to.  Plenty.
I want to close with a quote from Gaiman, that sums up much of why I like this particular book, (and other dark things I enjoy):
*"I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that."
  - Neil Gaiman
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