Expect the unexpected in a pair of recent releases by best-selling, award-winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman.
Both slim volumes are distinctly memorable; one is a remarkable otherworldly tale while the other is a colorfully designed speech.
If this sounds unusual -- you've been warned: the novel is a carefully crafted book that's tough to put down; the inspirational speech will have mind-bending visual impact.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" (Morrow, $25.99) is a compelling tale for adults told from the viewpoint of an unnamed seven-year-old boy.
The partly biographical tale begins with a man attending a funeral. He leaves, breaking away to travel down the country roads of Sussex, England, where he grew up.
He's drawn back to an old farmhouse near the end of the road, where forty years earlier he had met remarkable 11-year-old Lettie Hemptstock, her mother and grandmother.
The novel gets darker and stranger from there, as Lettie leads him into an unforgettable adventure on the farmland and far, far beyond.
This is a classic tale of good versus evil, a unique, unusual coming-of-age recollection and darned good, fast-paced entertainment.
Gaiman, who's the author of over 20 books, has created an outstanding, bittersweet masterpiece full of imaginative characters and a very determined, exceptionally nasty villain.
"Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' Speech" (Morrow, $12.99) is a journey in a completely difference direction.
Basically, it's the text of a 19-minute commencement address given by Gaiman to the 2012 graduating class at Philadelphia's University of the Arts.
The speech got huge attention by internet viewers, especially on YouTube; Gaiman got many requests to publish it.
The exceptionally creative author had an intriguing idea for presenting the speech -- get it designed into book format by innovative graphic designer Chip Kidd.
The result is a book full of graphic typography that showcases Gaiman's advice in an unusual manner. Kidd uses no photographs or black ink; instead, he uses stripped-down design imagery to emphasize Gaiman's points.
Kidd breaks many rules; the speech is displayed using a wealth of white space and varying typefaces. It's awash in turquoise and orange/red ink.
Gaiman offers great advice; this is idea for creative graduates who appreciate innovation. Other less appreciative souls may find Kidd's format challenging, awkward and difficult to read.
To view Gaiman's 2012 speech, visit http://vimeo.com/42372767.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has been reviewing books regularly since 1987.
Find this and other books by great Michigan authors
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.
Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan
This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on July 6, 2013.