Friday, April 20, 2018

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders | Neil Gaiman

I have finally, finally finished FRAGILE THINGS: SHORT FICTIONS AND WONDERS by Neil Gaiman. It's been a long time coming. According to Goodreads (alternatively: former-Hannah-who-put-the-information-into-Goodreads-in-the-first-place), I started this book on August 25th, 2017. That, my friends, is an immensely long time ago. 

A self-professed aficionado of Gaiman lore, I cannot believe that it took me nearly eight months to finish this book. I would read a story or two, put the book down, and forget about it. What a complete opposite effect! Usually, Gaiman is who I turn to when I'm in a reading funk and need to snap out of it!

This is not to say that I do not recommend this book. I love Neil Gaiman's short stories. I still listen to his interviews on YouTube when I'm doing other things, and will continue on my quest to read everything he's ever produced. It's just that FRAGILE THINGS was just fine. It didn't set my soul aflame.

The stories themselves seemed to lack the outright fantastical elements that I so adore from Gaiman's other short story collection, SMOKE & MIRRORS. (I even wrote an essay for my English class about the "Chivalry," the little tale about a woman who finds the Holy Grail in a secondhand store and makes Sir Galaad do household chores for her before she'll give it to him. I got an A.) 

Unfortunately, FRAGILE THINGS felt like a random compendium of odds and ends, like the bottom of a school backpack with fliers for last semester's fundraiser, broken pencils, loose Tic-Tacs, and old packets of Splenda. Sure, these things are useful in certain circumstances (such as: before the fundraiser, as a tool for self-defense, as a mint to offer your enemies, or as a way to sweeten tea without cane sugar) but as they sit decrepit and eclectic they are undesirable. 

One thing to note is that many of these stories were published originally in other places, and function as great successes on their own. "How to Talk to Girls At Parties" is an absolute classic, a still-working Bic pen on the day of the final exam. "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" is a reverse-Gothic and I adored it. "The Monarch of the Glen," the final story in the collection and an AMERICAN GODS short, is lovely and well-paced. Other worthwhile stories are "How Do You Think It Feels?," The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch," and "Sunbird."

Distracting from these good stories were stories that could have been so good but just, alas, were not. (Great classification, eh?) "The Problem of Susan" centered around an elderly and mysterious Susan Pevensie from C.S. Lewis' famed novels  a fantastic idea that missed the mark for me, too cryptic and dark-in-the-wrong-way to capture what it could have. I started reading "Harlequin Valentine" in January and didn't pick up the book again until a month later. I had to force myself through it. "A Study In Emerald" is a play on the Sherlock Holmes narrative that infuses elements of the famed H.P. Lovecraft; once again, it took me ages to finish. 

Perhaps my tastes for short stories have soured after two semesters in a row of manuscript workshop at university. This has not ruined me for reading Gaiman, I can assure you, but I think the next book I pick up will either veer directly into the science-fiction/fantasy I so love or steer clear of it entirely. 

I still have three unread Gaiman books on my shelf, and I will eventually continue on. 
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