April 1, 2012

Fragile Things

I like short stories.  I know a lot of people who like to read, and most of them stick with novels and don't give much thought to short stories.  I think people are missing out if they don't give this literary form a chance.  All of us have had to read short stories in school- Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton, various tales by Edgar Allen Poe or Guy de Maupassant, or the majority of stories starring Sherlock Holmes.  I like all of these, but they were written a long time ago, and there is still good short fiction being written today.  One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, writes a fair amount of short stories.  I just finished reading his second collection of short stories and poems, Fragile Things

I had read his first short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, a while ago.  It's great, and it contains one of the best short stories I've read, "The Wedding Present," hidden in the introduction to the book.  It's his twist on a Picture of Dorian Gray-type theme.  So, I read Fragile Things, and the book turns out to have another of my all-time favorite short stories, "A Study in Emerald."  You may notice the title resembles that of a Sherlock Holmes story, and yet it is set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft.  "A Study in Emerald" is available to read on Neil Gaiman's website here. The book also has a fantastic poem, "The Day the Saucers Came," which you can see the author reading below:

Hearing Gaiman read his poem is a real treat.  For those who liked his novel American Gods, there is a novella featuring Shadow, the main character, called "The Monarch of the Glen." It was outstanding, and just like American Gods, it left me wanting more stories about Shadow.  I also liked how it revisited two characters from an earlier story in Fragile Things.  Reading the book was worth it for this story alone.

A few other notable stories include "October in the Chair," in which the months of the year sit around entertaining themselves by telling tales, "Closing Time," about four boys and an abandoned playhouse (which made me want to sleep with the lights on that night), and "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," in which the girls at the party are not what they seem. 

Gaiman's introductions are interesting reading- not just because he hides short stories there.  He takes each story or poem and explains why it was written or the inspiration behind it.  In the blurb on "The Monarch of the Glen," he talks about an unfinished novella which returns to the world of Neverwhere, "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back."  He says he will finish it one day.  Sadly, Fragile Things was published in 2006, and "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" still has not seen the light of day. 

As with any collection, there are hits and misses, but Fragile Things was enjoyable reading.  There were only a couple of things I didn't like that much, and it comes down to one's personal taste, anyway.  It's safe to say that anything Neil Gaiman creates will be well-written and imaginative.

1 comment:

  1. The title of the collection reminds me of the title of the movie "Dirty Pretty Things" with Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ejiofor and I'm therefore even more kindly disposed towards it than I otherwise would be towards a Neil Gaiman collection.


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