Gaiman was the reason I always had purple baggy-eyes in elementary and middle school. The simplicity of his writings, the interweaving of mythology, monsters, and modernity, and the cruel world behind-the-magic offered my child-self something gripping, something utterly fantastic and appalling to explore late in the night. His writing still does—today—in my late twenties. Personally, my favorite work by Neil Gaiman is The Ocean at the End of the Lane (and not only because Fiction Beer Company has a citrus wheat beer inspired by the novel). I have a theory about literature (I’m allowed a few theories, being an English teacher) that great works must inspire the moral imagination, even if the wisdoms aren’t the sort we want to hear. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the title clues us in—Harper Lee wants us to understand that it’s a “sin to kill a mockingbird” for they “don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” The book indicts an American culture which regularly commits this sacrilege against its disadvantaged and minorities. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, behind an incredible narrative about magic and outsiders, there is an abundance of dark truths about adulthood—its deceptive ontology of control, its routine mindlessness. Gaiman reminds us “Adults follow paths. Children explore;” “Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside;” and—in the most incredible line I’ve read in literature, something that explains the opus of Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft better than they did themselves—that what marks adulthood is not some maturity or inner growth, but the awareness of how fragile the surface of our lives are, the recognition that reality is “a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”
Twelve jurors discuss a murder trial. None of them recognize renown actor Henry Fonda pretending to be an architect.
The sediments on the casket are vibrating like at the end of Superman v. Batman. Whatever’s inside is alive and powerful. Cut to black. Onscreen, cue the words: “God’s Not Dead 27.” Tom Hiddleston says the arc words, “He has not abandoned us,” which have a haunting, poetic effect.
A montage of scenes with teenagers in the grips of terrible, divine events. A teenaged boy, screaming. There are holes in his hands. A girl being dragged up the wall, her arms splayed, her body forming the shape of a tee. Fresh blood on a wall which reads: “Repent.” Then a celebrity, undoubtedly Nicholas Cage, in fact it can’t be anyone else, it has to be Nicholas Cage, drives down a freeway at high speeds, a pistol in each hand pressed against the steering wheel. Nicholas Cage has a face that means business. Cut to Paul Giamatti in an orange prison suit, speaking to Cage from behind a pane of glass. Giamatti: “He’s coming for them!” Nicholas Cage hangs up a phone and walks away decisively. Giammati keeps shouting: “He’s coming for them all! The Lambs of God! Lambs for the slaughter!” Narrator: “No one knows where it came from, or who it will visit next.” The police dredge a body from the river as a dove lands beside red-and-blue flashing lights and watches menacingly. A teenager opens a drawer, sees a Bible, screams, shuts the drawer. Narrator: “God is Not Dead 59: Die Harder.” We see the actress from before crawling down a hall. The shadow of a robed, bearded man falls over her. A powerful voice, maybe Liam Neeson, maybe Benedict Cumberbatch, says, “You are all my children now!” The trailer cuts to black and dark laughter.
My brother and I wrote these fake Yelp reviews last summer. The conceit was that the reviewer is causing the very problems he complains about: