Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The walls kept tumbling down, in the city that we love

I really haven't read that much recently. And I feel bad about it. But in a lazy, uncaring sort of way. To put things in perspective, I'd read about a tenth the number of books in this last third of the year than the third before. So when the aforementioned trip to Gibraltar materialized, I figured I'd at least put the flying to some good use.

I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane as we lifted off and the fjords fell away from beneath me, unnoticed. I realized, not far into the book, that I'd made a huge mistake. I'd read this. I'd loved the article a couple of months or so back. I'd even started listening to a little Amanda Fucking Palmer, just 'cos.

Like I said, mistake. I kept reading, and had the flights been any longer, I'd have finished it all before touchdown. As it was, I ignored it for the duration of my stay, and picked it up again after I'd settled in once the rock was safely out of view. It didn't take long. We were barely even halfway across Spain.

And as I looked out over the subtly changing landscape I noticed the shapes. The squared off humanness of it all feeling a little out of place. The squareness of the plateaus that looked like a giant carpenter had started planing off wrinkles on the earth but had been distracted, that fit better. Anyway, I digress. I was really mostly thinking about what I'd just read.

I'm not given to spoilers much, but there might be some veiled ones further down, so tread on at your own peril. I quite like Gaiman's writing. I loved American Gods. I loved Neverwhere more. The few others I read were quite good fun too. But this was nothing like any of those. Oh there was madness! And darkness. And light in dark places, and shadows cast by light. But he was speaking in the first person! You'd think it wouldn't really matter, but to me it did.

It was harder to allow my imagination the same free reign while navigating this book as the others, mostly because I had this uncomfortable feeling that I knew too much of the protagonist. I'd read that bloody article, and try as I might, I couldn't ignore the fact that this was him. His childhood. No matter how heavily churned, mixed or blended.

How dare he?!! Now I can't get the imagined horror out of my head. What had actually happened to Lettie Hempstock? I can't help but imagine the worst. Thing is, the worst keeps getting worse. As I'm sure no one needs reminding, real life can be so much uglier than nightmares.

No one can ever blame Gaiman for putting sweet happy endings to his stories. But usually there's nothing anchoring even the slightest part of the narrative to any reality I can imagine. Not this time. This time he's gone and planted himself right in the middle of it. And to distract myself, I wonder about the other things we never find out. Whose funeral was it anyway?

But then it occurs to me, maybe, like A effing P, I didn't get it either! Maybe all of it makes sense. Like proper, real life sense. Wouldn't that be properly awful?! I like my fantasy fantastic, thankyouverymuch. And while this indeed is, quite fantastic, and I loved reading it, it will not be my favourite. When is he going to get done with that American Gods sequel, I wonder? I do hope he turns that art-blender back to a proper ten for that one.

Currently: ruminating
Listening to: Bastille - Pompeii

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