Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dear Sister Person Book Club: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Dear Sister Person,

You are welcome. Very, very welcome. I figured that I could only add to the torture for so long before we abandoned our venture to read books together, and Gini Koch nearly made me want to kill you, to be honest. (No matter what you say, the Glorious Darcy books were in no way in the same awfulness caliber that Touched by an Alien was.) So reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane was definitely a welcome reprieve for me, as well.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Cover
Via Terminally Incoherent
I was actually really amused when I realized The Ocean at the End of the Lane was about another person returning home for a funeral and getting unexpected results. Thankfully, that is the only similarity that it shares with This Is Where I Leave You, because, if it did, I probably would have just sat down and cried. I can only take so much casual misogyny and stunted adulthood before I start to doubt the necessity of the human race.

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favorite authors for a very long time, ever since I picked up a copy of American Gods. He is a fucking master of magical realism, and I don't think he falters any with this novella. The Ocean at the End of the Lane seems to me to be a pure fairy tale, so it's supposed to be something that people of all ages can appreciate, like it's The Sandlot with a heap of A Wrinkle in Time mixed in. I actually enjoy The Sandlot so much more now than I did when I was younger, partially because I find it hilarious that I was so smitten with Michael "Benny Rodriguez" Vitar; there's as much nostalgia to watching it as there is recognizing that it's about nostalgia. Anyway, back to the book. It's really a tale about growing up and forgetting the vivid imaginations we, as children, manage to take for granted. Every now and then, if you're lucky, you'll catch glimpses of that childhood whimsy, unless you're one of the weird people that never truly gave it up (I'm one of those crazy ones - I exist in a world where my brain is a playground of whatever I can dream). Considering the past year and a half of my life, it seems appropriate that I bought this book a while ago and only now just got around to reading it.

I feel like there's such a rush to become an adult, to learn everything and show the rest of the world how much you know, like a giant pissing contest that nobody really ever wins. I, too, was drawn to the quote, "It's nothing special, knowing how things work. And you really do have to give it all up if you want to play." It sums up my approach to life pretty much to a T, as you can attest, and I find it to be a much more honest way of living, at least for me. Whether or not it fits other people is another discussion, obviously, but that is where I stand on the issue. I've spent much too much time trying to figure out how not to be the person I am, the woman who frequently is mistaken for the younger of us because I seem unguarded, child-like, impulsive. None of those descriptions are false, of course, but for a very long time, I regarded them with a sort of disdain. I'm not going to do that any longer; I want to remember always, not just when I feel overwhelmed and scared of what life holds in front of me.

This is turning out to be more of a response to the book than an actual review, so sorry about that, but since most of Gaiman's work is so personal, both for him and the reader, I think a review of the plot is kind of unnecessary. You just have to read it and appreciate it, and I, for one, am glad that I did. It's pretty nice not to bring fire and brimstone once in a while, although you should probably expect me to choose some doozies here in the coming year.

Yours truly,

Juju aka Sissybug
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