Can it truly be possible that there are some things older than the universe that live among us? That interact with us? That manipulate us? It’s hard to fathom such things, especially when we’re all grown up and taught in our Science classes that there’s no such thing as ghosts or God or fairies, and that it’s all in our heads. Still, they fascinate me because it makes me think not just of what ifs but also of why can’t it be true and why can’t it be me?
Neil Gaiman always does that with his novels. Whenever I read his stories, it’s never a question of having to suspend disbelief because I always feel his stories to be true (“Other People” in Fragile Things gave me nightmares because I believed it). While I was reading his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it wasn’t like I could just picture in my head what was happening, it felt like I was there, too. I’m sure other bibliophiles can relate.
I loved this book. It was exciting, mysterious, fascinating, and all other types of adjectives exulting the work of Neil Gaiman. I’ll let other professional book reviewers talk about this work in detail. My single problem is how the kid narrator managed to sneak out of the house that first time to get to the end of the lane. HE WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. The way it was written, it felt like it was an older kid running away, NOT a seven year old boy. That’s like a grade 1 or 2 boy. That part I could not wrap my head around. It just seemed way too improbable.
Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
On a deeper level, the book made me think about the antagonist, the dirty canvas creature that was at least older than our world (if I recall correctly) and believes it is making people happy by giving them money (it was the HOW that was problematic). The main characters said that it was simply doing what it was in its nature to do, and I thought, “Does that make it inherently a bad creature?” I suppose it was the same as thinking all sharks are evil simply because they have been known to eat humans when they’re basically just doing their thing.
When the shark metaphor entered my head, I began to pity the creature. It was stubborn at first, but it became scared, and when it got scared it began to do something worse. I could feel its fear. It wasn’t a matter of being sent to the principal’s office, nothing that mundane of course. It was scared for its own life, and it was being punished for something it was in its nature to do and for being afraid.
Perhaps the justification in the punishment is that the creature wasn’t an ignorant animal; it was a creature capable of thought and speech and emotions and making sound decisions. Unfortunately, the one decision it made wasn’t acceptable, and hence it was to be punished.
Again a metaphor entered my head. It reminded me of us humans. When we are afraid or when we panic, we tend to forget to be rational and go with our emotions, making decisions that are usually more harmful than helpful. It is important, then, to not let our emotions run the course of our lives. We can’t let ourselves get manipulated. We are the ones who should run our own lives to make sure that balance is achieved. Yin and yang. Heart and mind. Body and soul. Otherwise, we’d get eaten alive.