the ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman is not an especially well written book, I thought while reading it last summer (maybe I was bothered by some repetitions, I am that way inclined). but, being maybe a little more conventionally, even “commercially” written to my ear than some of his older work,* it made me see what really strikes me in his novels and stories: a unique grace in making imagination meet reality, fishing deep in personal, vivid feelings while using well-loved props and figures from fantastic literature. whether it's in a more carefully crafted or a more script-like writing, nothing like a neil gaiman book makes my mind travel in a new world while feeling so much (and not safely) at home.
this time, I found a bit of ocean that was quite literally about me. not just the general idea of a childhood spent reading, with obscure fears lurking in the shadows; that would be much too easy. no, it's the specific bit about living in an old house and liking it because it looks like something from the books you read, and climbing in and out of windows because that's what happens in the books you read. that I used to do – and climbing trees had the same appeal in spite of my non-athletic nature – exactly for that reason. I read ocean and it came back to me, the moment in time when I started to value real life things according to my own mind system, picking up not from examples around me, but from a larger cultural universe. that's when my inner life began (and my social life ended, possibily). and that does lead you to think of life and death in a slightly different way, you know.
so happy that garnant wrote this, so I don't have to (Internet reading and commenting is playing with mirrors in a way).
* I thought this also because, just after reading ocean, I picked up the bridge by iain banks (I had been wanting to read him for ages, how typical of me to start doing it after he's gone): the splendidly polished literary prose is there, but I still have to find a hook drawing me inside the story. I hope I will.