Posts Tagged ‘quests – fiction’

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman – a Readers’ “Notes”

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Bob Hoff, the Moderator of one of our in-library book discussion groups sent me these “notes” from one of his participants.  Bob wrote: “My book discussion group recently discussed Neil Gaiman’s newest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (find this book in our catalog). … one person enjoyed it so much that she wrote “notes”. … She told me that she read the book in two hours.”

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman-Notes by Paulette Smyth

“This is a spiritual book that touches on many new age spiritual beliefs and uses new scientific theories to explain life. One of the spiritual hypotheses that Neil Gaiman employs is Cosmic Consciousness (CC), the belief that we all share one universal, all encompassing communal consciousness when we die. The pond at the end of the lane (which is the Ocean of the title) represents that communal consciousness that we blend into upon our death.

In this engrossing fable, a boy and his friend, Lettie embark on a quest for a gray and pink rag monster. This monster has started trouble on the earth by stirring up human greed for money. It feeds off humans’ greed and lust. The theory of CC is key as the boy and Lettie trek across other dimensions to find the evil thing that is stirring things up in our world.

The idea of cosmic consciousness clearly stands out when Lettie brings the Ocean in a bucket to the boy in the fairy ring and at her direction he steps in. (p.142) “I would stay here for the rest of time in the ocean which was the universe, which was the soul which was all that mattered.” Lettie tells him he can’t stay because his individuality would dissolve and he would become absorbed by the universe, become one with it. “You wouldn’t die in here, nothing ever dies in here, but if you stayed here for too long, after a while just a little of you would exist everywhere all spread out….there wouldn’t be anything left that would think of itself as an“I”. (p.145) In this communal consciousness we become all knowing, but when we leave it to be reborn into the earthly plane we forget this knowledge, another aspect of the CC belief of afterlife.

Some believers in CC also believe in reincarnation of the soul. Belief in reincarnation is evident throughout the story. One pertinent reincarnated being is the black kitten with the white-tipped ear. This cat is an animal guide sent from the afterlife to be of comfort to the boy.

The idea of reincarnation encompasses the idea that there are old souls who are more knowledgeable than newer souls, the old souls having lived and learned through many reincarnations. Old Mrs. Hempstock is one of them. There are many references throughout the story where she speaks of existing in different historic time periods. At the very beginning of the tale when we are first introduced to the old lady we are cautioned that she is no ordinary grandmother. Lettie is also an old soul, although not as old or as powerful as the Grandmother. At various points throughout the story the boy asks her how old she really is as she appears to him to be far older and wiser than her 11 years. He also recognizes her as a guardian repeatedly telling of the trust he places in her.

In this fable Neil Gaiman also explores the science of String Theory. String Theory basically contends that there are multiple universes in operation at the same time and that time itself is a concept imposed by man. This multi-dimensional property of existence allows for the possibility of movement from one dimension to another, and that time as we define it is really nonexistent. Dimensions lie next to one another like thin membranes. Lettie and the boy travel out of one dimension into another when they travel to find the gray and pink rag monster. To pass from one dimension to another one needs a portal. The lane and gaps in the hedgerows on the boundaries of the Hempstock farm act as portals to safety for humans and at the same time they are rigid barriers to evil. Several times in the story the boy talks about a child’s ability to find ways (portals) through the brush (dimensions) to reach a destination those adults would never conceive of, since adults stick to well-delineated roads. The pond is a portal to the afterlife or cosmic consciousness. The kitchen in the Hempstock farm house is a portal to past historical periods. The Hempstock women live in multiple dimensions, as well as, time periods. Lettie is part of the trinity of Hempstock women.

This story can be read on many levels. You could just read it as a fairytale with interesting plot and characters. You could read it as a story of a lonely, sometimes psychotic, possibly schizophrenic child who conjures up creatures to fill the void in his socially isolated life.

I think the author wrote it so superbly that the mythology, spirituality, and the theories at the forefront of today’s scientific advances in physics and consciousness are interwoven and blended so well that it makes for one terrific book that prods the mind to do some serious thinking. LOVED IT!!!!!!!!”

Paulette Smyth attends the fiction book group at the Bel Air branch on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Please see our website for details of this and other groups.


The 100-year-old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The 100-year-old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Find this book in our catalog)

I zipped through this book and highly recommend it for all who love dry and searching humor.

I think The 100-year-old Man would appeal to fans of Forrest Gump by Winston Groom or of  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  The three books have humor in common, all are quests, in all three the protagonists meet interesting and quirky characters.

The book has sold very well around the world.  The Swedish translates into a spare and matter-of fact prose that really goes with the character – a really old man who has seen it all and believes in just going with what life dishes out.  Cheerfully!

With modest common sense and deadpan humor he sums up the world leaders he has come across in his accidental tour through the political hotspots of the Twentieth Century.

He also meets a cast of far from ordinary ordinary characters as he goes philosophically on his way. For me, as well as the humor, the charm of the book is the sense of real friendship and love that develops between the most unpromising people.

The publisher’s blurbs do not do this complex and totally adsorbing book justice, but here is a taste of what it says in our catalog:

“After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he’s still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn’t interested (and he’d like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).

It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.”

You can also read more for yourself when you go to our catalog to place your hold.