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Bratty - quill
Posted on Sunday 23 June 2013 at 10:37 am

Two Bits of Recent Pop Culture: The Audience (NT Live Broadcast) and the new Gaiman novel

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I went to see the National Theater Live broadcast of Helen Mirren in The Audience last weekend. It was a fantastic play and I really enjoyed everything about it. The performances were all great, the history and politics of course interested me, and some of the staging decisions (especially the quick changes for getting Mirren from older to younger and back again as the play jumped around in time) were really fascinating in their own right without distracting from everything else. I've been reading that this broadcast and the same one the previous Thursday broke all kinds of UK and global attendance records for the NT Live program. I wonder if that was a Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth thing or if there is a growing awareness of the NT Live and similar stage play broadcast things that will continue.

A new Neil Gaiman book came out last week, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I of course read it as soon as it was out. I've mostly been seeing it get massive praise and I thought it was... OK. I've let it bounce around in my head for the past close to week and I think I'm coming closer to understanding why it just seemed kind of "Well, it's OK. I guess." to me. I think my problem is that it just feels like I've read it before. It was very much a Neil Gaiman book, doing all the things with myths and memory and the like that I love from him, but it was a Neil Gaiman book with nothing new to offer if you've read all the previous Neil Gaiman books. It is short for an adult novel. I don't know the word count but I wouldn't be surprised if it is close to the novella / novel border depending on what definitions of the terms you use. I read it in under two hours. Short isn't necessarily a bad thing. I suspect the word count here is greater than that of Michael Chabon's The Final Solution, for example, and I love that to pieces. I don't know that the story told here could have been any longer. It doesn't feel like there is anything missing, it just doesn't feel like there is much here either. I understand that this was a very personal book for Gaiman to write, that it is highly autobiographical in ways none of his other books were and means more to him in many ways. Maybe that's part of my problem, too. There were so many moments when the protagonist would say or think something and I'd think "Well, yeah, I read Gaiman saying that on his blog two years ago," or similar. Maybe if you don't know Neil Gaiman's work and his online persona as well as I do there will be more in this for you than there was for me, but for me it was an OK story that I might have loved if this were my fifth time re-reading it as a comfort favorite but left me wanting for a first read of something that should have been new.

For the BBC Radio fans as well as the Gaiman fans, this new novel will be read as the Book at Bedtime selection sometime in July. I mentioned this a week and a half ago or so, but the reader hadn't been announced then. It will be Michael Sheen.

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