The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
I don’t remember how the dreams started. But that’s the way of dreams, isn’t it? I know that I was in school, and having a bad day, hiding from the kinds of kids who hit me and called me names, but they found me anyway, deep in the rhododendron thicket behind the school, and I knew it must be a dream (but in the dream I didn’t know this, it was real and it was true) because my grandfather was with them, and his friends, old men with gray skin and hacking coughs. They held sharp pencils, the kind that drew blood when you were jabbed with them. I ran from them, but they were faster than I was, the old men and the big boys, and, in the boys’ toilets, where I had hidden in a cubicle, they caught up with me. They held me down, forced my mouth wide open.
…I tried not to choke on the thing in my throat, determined no to give them that satisfaction.
I woke and I was choking.
…I did not want to look at it. I did not want it to exist, the bridge between my dream and the waking world.
Neil Gaiman has a way of tapping into real fears: of no one coming to your birthday party; of losing a kitten; of pencils and choking and drowning and families torn apart. His stories hit a nerve, creepy in their realism, because he understands what we are truly afraid of. He gets that it isn’t monsters.
I only wonder if Ocean wouldn’t sell more copies had the adult content been toned down a wee bit and marketed as a YA or children’s novel. The feel is similar to Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and the length, at 180 pages, is more in keeping with kid lit.
The author speaks at the Michigan Theater in A² tomorrow night, courtesy of Nicola’s Books.