Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm...Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly.

Thus begins a pre-prologue, I think. Not bad, despite being a small group of words loitering at the beginning of the book. I'm now interested in Lettie; she reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes type that dreams the world into dramatic irrelevance. I'm hooked.


I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult.

Huh? Ah, I wanted more about Lettie. Now it's a wardrobe review? What is this book about, a Gap hoedown? Anyway, to recap: We learn that this character usually isn't a sharp dresser and is under the legal age. Conflict? Yes, kids hate dressing up like Dad, but not really revealing. I've wiggled free of previous hook.

Paragraph ends:

I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.

Oh, now it makes sense. Award-winning Writing Rule 8, sub-section 3.4, paragraph 5.872 states: Never let your character go out to face story-worthy problems until the reader knows that said character is properly dressed for the occasion. It always bothers me when I read about a character caught in a snow storm, but am never told what they're wearing, if anything all all. Therefore, I'm forced to assume they're naked. But in this book, I now know they are dressed and that this isn't a Hair rip-off.

Finally, after a couple false starts, we get to Chapter One, which, you know, is traditionally where the story of a book is supposed to begin, or is it? Can stories actually begin not at the beginning? As impossible as that sounds, many writers reviewed here are trying - and failing.

Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.

I had a kid in my grade 8 writing class who started a story just like that. It was neat that time; he got an A-. But reading it again in a published book, by a successful author, gives Mr. Gaiman a C. And I don't mean the vitamin or the influence.

First thing said:

"Mrs. Hempstock?"

Verdict: Fail.

Rudy Globird

1 comment:

  1. I'd give this a pass (barely) - 2.5 stars - Theodore Moracht.