The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman, and a giveaway

gaiman_oceanA new novel by Neil Gaiman? Don’t mind if I do.

Jeg har en kopi av den norske oversettelsen å gi bort, se under anmeldelsen for detaljer.

I expected to love this book. I also expected to have a hard time putting it down once I started reading. The latter turned out to be true, the former? Unfortunately not so much. Which is not to say I hated it, either, I’m more on a ‘Meh’ sort of level.

A man returns to his childhood town for a funeral, but between the sevice and the social event afterwards he takes a drive to clear his head and finds himself at the site of his childhood home. He continues down the lane to the very end, where the Hempstocks still live, like they did when he was a child. He is plunged into memories, and the reader follows him through the recollection of something that happened when he was seven years old, when a suicide woke a creature that did not belong in this world.

Gaiman skillfully draws his characters, the three Hempstock women (Lettie is only 11 in appearance, but hardly a child) are indeed worth the aquaintance and who can resist a seven year old friendless boy who loves Gilbert & Sullivan and who lives mostly through books?

I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible. I pulled down a handful of my mother’s old books, from when she was a girl, and I read about schoolgirls having adventures in the 1930s and 1940s. Mostly they were up against smugglers or spies or fifth columnists, whatever they were, and the girls were always brave and they always knew exactly what to do. I was not brave, and I had no idea what to do.

(Page 58-59.) The book also deftly plays on the fine line between reality and fantasy in a child’s life, and raises questions about memory, how we remember and why no two people will agree on exactly what happened when a story is retold.

So why am I left unenthused? I suspect some explanation is to be found in my dislike of ‘horror’. The creature the children encounter is of the insiduous kind that easily triggers nightmares, and that, more than a real interest in the characters, was what kept me turning the pages. I needed the horror to be put to rest. It may also have contributed to my lack of engagement, I think I probably disengage emotionally from stories like these out of self-defence, if I don’t get involved it is less scary.

So perhaps I should say: «Mr. Gaiman, it’s not you, it’s me.»


Jeg fikk en epost fra Vendetta forlag med spørsmål om jeg hadde lyst på en kopi av den norske oversettelsen. Denne gangen sa jeg fra på forhånd at jeg kom til å lese boka på engelsk og lodde ut det norske eksemplaret, og siden det var greit for dem fikk jeg boka i posten. Jeg stusser riktignok litt over «innsalget» fra forlaget i eposten:

den mest tilgjengelige og litterære boken han har kommet med så langt (…) Det er ikke fantasy denne gangen så denne treffer nok flere lesere.

Ikke fantasy? Har vi lest samme bok?

At den er tilgjengelig stemmer kanskje, men jeg synes jo de tidligere bøkene er særdeles tilgjengelige også, Neverwhere, f.eks., og «litterær»? Tja. Hva betyr det? Både Anansi Boys og American Gods krever mer av leseren i form av kunnskap om myter og religion (for å få fullt utbytte, i alle fall), er ikke metalitteratur «litterært»?

gaiman_havetDen norske utgaven heter Havet i enden av veien, og er oversatt av Stian Omland. Kompetent gjort, forsåvidt. For eksempel la jeg merke til at «little pitcher» er oversatt, helt korrekt, med «lille gryte», til tross for at det ikke er noe mer som tilsier at vi har med et idiom å gjøre enn de to små ordene (på engelsk heter det «little pitchers have big ears», på norsk sier vi «små gryter har også ører»). Men det er ikke alltid norsken flyter like elegant som Gaimans engelsk. Og når Lettie slår over i dialekt (eller sosiolekt om du vil), som hun gjør innimellom,  er det i  den norske versjonen ingen merkbar endring.

«Asked you to name yourself, I did. I en’t heard more’n empty boasts of age and time. Now, you tell me your name and I en’t asking you a third time.» She sounded more like a country girl than she ever had before.

(Side 41.) Sammenlignet med:

«Jeg ba deg si hva du heter, jeg. Og så hører jeg ikke annet enn tomt skryt om alder og tid. Så si hva du heter, og aldri om jeg spør deg for tredje gang.» Hun lød mer som en bondejente enn noen gang før.

(Side 47.) I orginalen plasserer dia-/sosiolekten Lettie i et landskap og på en rangstige i samfunnet, men samtidig er den med på å forsterke følelsen av at hun ikke er det hun ser ut til. Den dybden går tapt i oversettelsen. I tillegg har jeg problemer med flyten i Letties andre setning, «og aldri om jeg» måtte jeg lese flere ganger før setningen ga mening. Det virker som en unødvendig komplikasjon av syntaksen. Kan jeg få foreslå «Jeg spør ikke igjen»? (Eller til og med «Jeg spø’kke igjen», så får vi avgentrifisert språket litt også.)

Vel. Om du fortsatt har lyst til å lese Havet i enden av veien, etter min kritikk av både boka og oversettelsen (førstnevnte har utallige andre rost opp i skyene, da, så det er muligens bare meg det er noe galt med) har jeg altså et eksemplar å gi bort. Noe annet smågodt havner det sikkert også oppi pakka. Alt du trenger å gjøre for å delta er å kommentere på dette innlegget, denne gangen vil jeg gjerne at du forteller meg hvilken bok du ønsker deg til jul i kommentaren. Jeg trekker på søndag kveld klokken 20:00, for da kan jeg få sendt pakka før postens frist den 16. så den når fram til julaften.

The Sandman: Season of Mists and A Game of You – Neil Gaiman

I’ve had The Sandman on my wishlist for a while, and got some for Christmas 2011 (which I read at the beginning of 2012, but neglected to blog about) and two for Christmas 2012. However, I had to exchange one because I goofed, I put vol. 3 onwards on my wishlist, but I already had 3. Luckily, Outland were nice about it and let me exchange vol. 3 for vol. 5, so I have now just finished vol. 4 Season of Mists and vol. 5 A Game of You.

Every volume I have read so far is beautiful in its own way. The cast of characters, both the recurring ones and the ones who appear in only one storyline, are by turns electrifying, charming, terrifying and lovable, but always fascinating. The themes are far-reaching and open ended, leaving more questions than they answer. Gaiman borrows lavishly from pretty much every mythology, and puts his loot to good use.

And on top of that the illustrators do their job beautifully throughout.

In Season of Mists, Dream of the Endless accidentally (sort of) aquires the key to hell, and much chaos ensues while he tries to figure out what to do with it. Along the way we get chilling images of boarding school life as well as philosophical musings on the role of hell and humankind’s need for punishment.


A Game of You appeals to me even more, with its captivating set of somewhat lost humans getting involved in something far beyond their conscious imaginings.

It’s hard to say much more without spoilers, I find. I’ll leave it there.

Stardust – Neil Gaiman

stardustPlaying catchup on the review front here… It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

I loved it. However, I didn’t love it anywhere near as much as I loved some of Gaiman’s other novels. It feels a bit like a first draft, to be honest, one that needs filling in. The sky pirates, for example, I need to read more about them. And the story of Stronghold, of Primus and Septimus especially: I’d like a bit more. Primus is interesting, but he is here and gone so quickly that I was left gasping for air (metaphorically).

And Tristran Thorn, our hero, well, I didn’t entirely fall for him.

On the other hand, the descriptions of Faerie are lovely. The star that turns out to be fairly human, the lilim, the little hairy man (gotta love him and his impatience) and a host of other characters that would probably be worth a whole novel to themselves.

One thing, though: I’ve seen Victoria Forester described as shallow in several reviews, which I think is a bit unfair. As far as I can gather, she sends Tristran on a fool’s errand in the hope that he’ll bugger off home and be ashamed of promising more than he can live up to, and so leave her alone. She seems genuinely distressed at him actually going off on a quest, and is willing to keep her promises to him when he returns, despite the fact that she is clearly in love with someone else. Tristran, on the other hand, seems to (imagine himself to) be in love with Victoria simply because she is «the prettiest girl within a 100 mile radius». That’s what I call shallow.

Still and all, I did love it. And I think I’m going to try to get hold of the illustrated version. And I might even see the film. I’ll have to think about that one.

Our edition includes the first chapter of a possible other story featuring Wall. I wish Gaiman would hurry up and write that one, it sounds perfectly ripping.

Since the middle of February

The Tale of Desperaux – Di Collofello
Very sweet. Not exceptionally good, though, and with an underlying sort of morality which bothered me. Since I rather like rats I objected to the description of them being so nasty to look at and touch (especially in comparison with mice, which are, apparently, not nasty at all), but I can understand how it might be necessary for the story. However, I can’t quite excuse the idea that a rat is a rat and can never change his nature, it smacks – to me – a little of the I’m-trying-to-be-politically-correct-but-I’m-a-racist-really premise that all, say, negroes are lazy, but it’s in their nature and they can’t really help it. Balderdash.

Small Wars Permitting – Christina Lamb
Very interesting, highly readable. My father just finished this when I was trying to get through Sorting Out Billy (see below) and there was no competition, really, I jumped at the chance to read something else. Lamb manages to be both informative, profound and thought-provoking and at the same time laugh-out-loud funny in places. The book contains both newly written context material and quite a few of Lambs articles from various papers and both are equally readable and absorbing. Highly recommended.

Then, a bit of a Durrell reread going on – in between all the other stuff – if I find the time and energy I might write a more detailed post on Durrell, but for now, here’s a list:
The Bafut Beagles – Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice – Gerald Durrell
The Stationary Ark – Gerald Durrell
A Zoo in my Luggage – Gerald Durrell
Catch me a Colobus – Gerald Durrell
The Dunken Forest – Gerald Durrell
Himself and Other Animals – David Hughes (biography)

Sorting Out Billy – Jo Brand
I read only the first half, or thereabouts and then gave it up in disgust. Abysmally bad, actually.

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
Entertaining, slightly scary in parts. Well worth the time.

Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Excellent. I was a little worried, not being a great fan of spiritualism and trying to speak to the dead, however, Keyes managed the issue beautifully, I think, and I didn’t cringe even once.

Slam – Nick Hornby
Hornby’s first «young adult» novel, which probably should be compulsory reading for most British teenagers as a sort of literary contraception. Not Hornby’s best book – by far – from an adult point of view, but then that’s hardly the right point of view for judging it.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

A Ramble Round the Globe – Thomas Dewar
Disappointingly unoccupied with whisky or with advertising, the two main reasons I am interested in Tommy Dewar, but a rather interesting read nonetheless.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Bill Bryson
Just what you’d expect from Bill Bryson: Very good.

Harlequin Valentine – Neil Gaiman & John Bolton

A rather beautiful book, another one that came my way thanks to bookcrossing. Bolton’s illustrations are magnificent and the story is concurrently charming and haunting, just as Commedia dell’arte should be. I will have to keep this copy for a while and enjoy it again before sending it on its way (and also, probably, put it on the wishlist).

Good Omens

Good Omens arrived in my office as part of a bookcrossing bookring. I’ve never managed to read a Terry Pratchett novel before, and I’ve only really glanced at Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels, so it was really a case of two new writers in one go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, really. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but chuckleworthy in places and bits of the – for lack of a better word – moral of the story will probably stick with me. On the whole pretty good.

(the book’s journal)