Monday, April 19, 2010

CBR Book#38: Fragile Things:Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

As I've said before, I've resisted Gaiman because he comes highly recommended and praised, and I'm usually disappointed by the build-up and high expectations of others. In Gaiman's case, the praise is actually deserving and I'm glad that I've begun to read his works. My first brush with him was the short story "Bitter Grounds" in the short story collection The Living Dead. The story intrigued me, but left me a little confused but satisfied. That same story in included in this collection and allowed me to read it apart from so many other 'zombie' stories, making me see it more clearly and appreciate it more. It works beautifully on its own and added even more to the collection than I could have discerned before.

Gaiman's collection includes many other previously published short stories and poems. I'm not much for reading just poems, but I really enjoyed "The Day the Saucers Came". It begins as an absurd amalgamation of events that culminate in something ordinary and highly familiar. I also liked "Instructions". They are lovely.

The stories are all explored fully and enjoyable, even though they are short. Gaiman also revisits characters from previous works, though they are unknown to me. Mr. Alice and Smith were featured in two intriguing tales that I was able to fully enjoy without full the full back stories of the characters. Some were written for friends or for other people's projects. The descriptions of "Strange Little Girls" written for Tori Amos were short but beautiful to read.

Gaiman's imagination is staggering and his genius is obvious. There wasn't one piece of writing in this collection that was a labor to read. Keeping with that, it is difficult to choose a favorite tale. I love the inversion of realities in A Study in Emerald". I love the madness of "Diseasemaker's Croup". "Harlequin's Valentine" made me want to explore Gaiman's influences. Anyone that didn't dive into Gaiman's works with The Graveyard Book may want to dip their toes into the water with this collection. I find it almost unbelievable that you would be sorry, unless you only read math textbooks or Rush Limbaugh biographies. In which case, ew!

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