Neil Gaiman’s new novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” explores the fabric of memory in such a way as to equate it with myth and legend. Gaiman’s writing, which I would characterize as a cross between Tim Burton and Alice Hoffman, is always rich with color, texture, scent and sound, but more to the point, he has the ability to weave a new story which feels like an ancient myth. In this book, a man returns to his childhood home to discover his house has been torn down. Resting at a neighbor’s house, he begins to remember spectacular events which occurred there during a night when he was about seven years old. Like Gaiman’s other work, The Graveyard Book, his has the ability to tell a sophisticated story through a young boy very convincingly. Down the lane from his home lives three extraordinary women: Letty, Ginny, and Old Mrs Hempstock, who live a simple farm life, but are capable of miraculous acts. Old Mrs. Hemptock keeps the full moon hanging over the south side of the house because she likes its light, Letty can carry the ocean in a bucket, and Ginny can sew a rent in the fabric of time. When a being from another world is accidentally carried into this world and threatens the young hero, Lettie vows to protect him, no matter what. The fantastical creatures Gaiman imagines are terrible in strange and unexpected ways, yet equally horrific are the events unleashed in the every day world. The Hempstock women have the ability to erase events by simply snipping them out of the fabric of an old dressing gown, and likewise can erase bad memories not unlike a scene from Star Wars–“Nothing to see here…” and suggests an alternate truth. They thereby change memory, not reality. Or do they? I confess I do not think I understood all the meanings within this tale, but was able to enjoy it on its most basic level as a good story.
Monthly Archives: July 2013
Just finished Carl Hiaasen’s “Bad Monkey” and feel as if I have just consumed a giant plate of fried conch washed down with a bottle of Barcardi Gold–great going down, but feeling a bit guilty and sick afterwards. Hiaasen’s work is full of irredeemable characters: a sex-crazed voodoo priestess, a medical insurance scammer, a cop on the take, a cheating wife obsessed with her next plastic surgery improvement. Even the “good” characters are over the top–our hero, Andrew Yancy, has just been busted down to “roach patrol” for performing an unlicensed colonoscopy using a vacuum cleaner hose on a rude husband, and his new girlfriend, a Miami coroner, has a proclivity towards making love in the creepiest places. But the reader laps this all up– Hiaasen’s keen social satire, his tongue-lashing against those who spoil the beauty of natural surroundings, his unflinching eye for human weaknesses– and is willing to swallow it down whole like a big, slurpy raw oyster. It’s all here: a dismembered arm hooked by a poser deep-sea fisherman, a voodoo queen who terrorizes men from a motorized wheelchair, and, of course, a bad monkey who was fired from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But crazy characters aside, Hiaasen is a story plotting genius. He threads and weaves scenes, then layers seemingly unrelated stories, which eventually all interconnect, like a masterful spider web. So, after reading the book, maybe you’ll feel a little guilty having laughed so hard at the dark humor, maybe for cheering on the anti-hero as he runs rough-shod outside the law…or, maybe not! Enjoy. Five star summer read.