I wanted to show him my tattoo. And I did sort of. He was busy with signing hundreds of books and by the time I was there in front of him, I stuttered. I awkwardly showed him my tattoo and had my copy of Brief Lives in front of him to sign on the page where my ink is from.
I started to read his new book that night, while waiting in line to get it signed. I remember reading Amanda Palmer's review. I remember her words while Neil was talking about the book. I remembered her words while he was reading passages to the audience.
There was no way I wasn't going to like the novel. There hasn't been a single thing that he's written that I didn't love. (Except Good Omens, I'm not a huge fan of that so much.) My gateway drug to the land of Gaiman was American Gods. Shortly after it was published a copy went around my circle of friends. Around almost the entire theatre department of my college to be honest. I fell in love. Eventually my friend Dave lent me the Sandman comics and Jacob watched over me as I read them, knowing they were going to affect me in a deep deep way.
He was right.
I don't think I cried as hard as I ever did at a series or book, before or since. There's just something that resonates to my deep soul. My deeper consciousness. I had never read anything like it. When people say something "moved" them, I had no idea what that truly meant until encountering this graphic novel.
I reread the series earlier this year, or late last. I can't remember. But upon rereading, I found the words that became my tattoo. A clear headed crazy woman because someone needed to hold it together if her brother couldn't. There are things that even the person who knows everything doesn't know. There are ways to travel and understand that others just don't see or get. How can I not understand that?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane moved me like Sandman did. It touched me. I cried and was scared and I believe I've had some nightmares because of the book. My heart aches and I want to know more about the family and about the narrator. And about that land that is neither there nor here. I want to find those places in my life where I can dream and remember and feel that otherness.
This is not a book for the day time. Read this book at night. In the quiet of 2am with a cup of tea that will probably grow cold as you read chapter by chapter. Read this book during a summer thunderstorm (like I did) that's as ferocious as the one you'll read in the pages. Read this book alone. And when you are finished, find someone to hug.
Other people have said it, but yes I firmly believe that this is his best work yet. The Sandman comics are my water mark, and (like I stated before) this is at that level.
It's a story about a boy and the wonderful and awful world his neighbor shows him. It all starts with a birthday cat. From there there's an opal miner. And then a nanny. And lots of other fantastic stuff. And more cats. And a fantastic storm.
Not to mention, beautiful writing.
And beautiful truths that I only half knew before going into this book:
"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
I thought about adults. I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped in adult bodies, like children's books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.
Read this book. Even if you don't like what I read. Read this book. You might not love it as wholly as I do. Actually, you can't: none of you are me. But I'm pretty damn sure this is a book that will stay with you long after you close the book.
Especially when you look outside when it rains and just wonder.