I remember my own childhood vividly… I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.
Wow. Now there’s a quote to preface a book with.
The book is Neil Gaiman‘s The Ocean at the End of the Lane… Interesting title.
The quote… Maurice Sendak, in Conversation with Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker, September 27, 1993…
Maurice Sendak. You know, Where the Wild Things Are.
Gotta say… That quote got me. I recognized the mentality. The feeling of knowledge or experience I didn’t want my parents to know I possessed. Though not all of it was so terrible.
Not like some children, whose experience can make adults who care about them sick, angry, heartbroken, overwhelmed.
There were things I came to know that I realized my parents did not want me to know – because they were too big or hard or ugly, or I was too small or soft or innocent – that I realized would make it harder for them to deal with if they found out I knew.
And then there was the not-imaginary imaginary fey. The fairies in the woods. The parts I didn’t tell my parents probably would not have scared them, at least not much. Though they may have worried about my sanity, or lack thereof, and ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Unlike author artist Sendak (I find myself wanting to refer to him simply as Maurice, while Neil Gaiman as Gaiman), I do not remember my childhood vividly.
But the thoughts of the separation caused by my secrets as a child, made me uncomfortably wonder if there are things my kids think they need to hide from me. Well, honestly, the things they do keep from me. Because, well, they’re kids, they’re human, and, for whatever sensible or wrong-headed reasons, people keep things hidden.
But that’s not what this post is about. This is post number two in First Words. And the first words of The Ocean at the End of the Lane are these:
It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big.
Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old country.
Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
Old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country. She said she could remember the really old country.
She said the really old country had blown up.
Okay, you have enough of my attention to keep on to the prologue…
I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult. Today they gave me comfort of a kind. I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.
I had done my duty that day, spoken the words I was meant to speak, and I meant them as I spoke them…
I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman before. But I hear he’s a pretty good storyteller. And I want to learn to be a good storyteller, so. Here I am.
Interested to check this one out, too? Here’s an Amazon link. Just so you know, if you make a purchase after clicking one of my Amazon links, I’ll earn a small commission as an Amazon associate. It won’t affect your price, but, hey, it will help support my blogging. One of these days, none of my sites will have ads I don’t control. Sorry for whatever you’re seeing near the bottom of the page, by the way.
To be honest – well, I always aim to write honestly, so to be, let’s see… forthright? – I’m not thrilled with the book so far. Not really my thing. I’m more into fantasy that’s more fairy tale and mystical creature than, well, what seems more occult-ish. The story isn’t gripping me. I’m not really caring what happens to the characters, which is the opposite effect an author wants. Could be my mood. Could be this just isn’t the book for me. Clearly, the remains of the worm in his foot will have some consequence, but do I really care? And there are strange forces at work, including with the good guys, erm, gals. Gaiman’s style is to make them seem if not commonplace, just normal for those who wield them, and try to capture the tone of a child who is old enough to know these things are fantastical, but young enough to not be particularly shocked. At least that’s how I’m reading it. Well, also with the detachment of the adult looking back… The narrator interprets the events from the ground-level of his childhood, through the lens of his limited experience; and as an adult looking back at something he’d forgotten. I find it rather dull. I’ve made it as far as page 52 of 178 in the hardcover copy from my local library.
Fan of The Ocean at the End of the Lane? What would you say to convince me to stick with it? Or maybe I should just jump ship to Neverwhere…
The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
He had begun the evening by enjoying himself: he had enjoyed reading the good-bye cards, and receiving the hugs from several not entirely unattractive young ladies of his acquaintance; he had enjoyed the warnings about the evils and dangers of London, and the gift of the white umbrella with the map of the London Underground on it that his friends had chipped in money to buy; he had enjoyed the first few pints of ale; but then, with each successive pint he found that he was enjoying himself significantly less; until now he was sitting and shivering on the sidewalk outside the pub in a small Scottish town, weighing the relative merits of being sick and not being sick, and not enjoying himself at all.
Gaiman fan? Tell me why. What about his stories, and the way he tells them, makes them work for you?
These two and American Gods are his only books at my library.