Mike Dariano

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane (book review)

I finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I first noticed the lightness of the book when I picked it up off the reserve shelf at our public library. I have the combined copy of American Gods and Anansi Boys which stands as a heavy pillar on my bookshelf and I read Neverwhere as a digital copy (these three have 565, 368, & 400 pages respectively). The Ocean has 180 pages and while the physical appearance of the is book slight, the content is not.

The narrator is a man who returns to his hometown for a family funeral and instead of attending the gathering after the burial drives to where he grew up. His house has been destroyed and built into housing subdivisions but past his home - at the end of the lane - is another home that stands just as it was when he was younger, and that’s how the story begins, as the younger version of the man narrates.

Gaiman’s book are never simple stories, instead choosing to balance on the ideas of gods in our world and how they might act. This book is no exception and we’re introduce to Lettie Hempstock, a girl who has been “eleven for a long time”.

It’s the things Gaiman implies that give his stories such a powerful aura more than the things he says. His analogies are good and descriptions just right but with each of these he only takes us to the ledge,and then asks us to use our imaginations to look over.

Strengths and Weaknesses

On Tynan

Something I wrestle with from time to time is whether to focus on my strengths or my weaknesses. On one hand, weaknesses often represent the lowest hanging fruit. If I'm really bad at, say, programming, a small amount of effort can radically increase my abilities. If I was excellent at programming, that same amount of effort would produce negligible results. On the other hand, time spent by a skilled programmer will create usable work, whereas time spent as a poor programmer probably won't produce anything useful.

An interesting thing to consider is that where you spend your time will define who you are as a person. A person who spends all of his time on his strengths will be a very narrowly focused person. He gets good at something and keeps hammering away at it until he's an expert. He who spends time focusing on his weaknesses will have a very broad focus. He'll be fairly good at lots of little things, but not a true expert in any.

So which is better? Well, despite the impression I give in a lot of my writing, not everything has to be extreme. This is one of those cases where an optimal path may lie somewhere in the middle.

For most of my life I've been way on the side of working on my weaknesses. I was terrible with girls, so I became a pickup artist (but quit before I got as good as people like Mystery, Style, Tyler, etc.). I made no money, so I became a professional gambler. Even though I spoke passable Spanish and Chinese, I switched to learning Japanese. I had never traveled, so I spent a year going everywhere. Whenever I saw a big weakness, I would dive into it head on. Once I cross that "decent" threshhold, I'd back off and start something new.

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