Sunday, January 6, 2008

"FRAGILE THINGS" by Neil Gaiman

In the introduction to the story called "Sunbird", Neil writes about a R.A. Lafferty, describing Lafferty's stories as 'unclassifiable and odd and imitable'.
The same could - and should - be said about Neil Gaiman.
"Fragile Things" is Gaiman's second collection of short fiction. How do you describe these stories? Perhaps 'fantasy' would cover it all, but certainly not sufficiently. 'Speculative' is really the only label you can hang on each story and poem... and yet, each piece is so much more than just speculative. There's a heartbeat to Gaiman's work that for my money is unmatched in contemporary literature. There's an intimacy, especially with his short work, that seems to put the reader at ease even when the topic is unsettling. I believe I've written in the past about what I think of as Gaiman's 'conversational' prose - it sounds corny, but when you read stories like these, you honestly feel like he's right there next to you, making sure you hear every enunciation.

Some of the highlights of this collection for me, personally, were "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" (which you don't have to be a writer to appreciate but it certainly helps), "Closing Time" (because I frequented taverns like that in my younger years and it was all very familiar), "The Problem of Susan" (because I've always wondered what became of her as well), "Instructions" (I wish very much that I had written that...), "How do you Think it Feels?" (this one... I don't know. I'm not sure I want to get too comfortable with why I liked it), "My Life" (reminds me of a Tom Waits song... something about dancing lessons.... maybe?), "Feeders and Eaters" (creeped me out), "The Day the Saucers Came" (all that's good and whimsical), "The Monarch of the Glen" (more Shadow, more Mr. Smith, more Mr. Alice - yay).

Just good, great stuff. The introductions to each piece give you some insight as to why, how, and where they were written. They let you ride shotgun with Neil's imagination, and that's a mighty fine place to be. As an aside, I put off reading each introduction until after I'd read the story they pertained to. I guess I'm a bit of a freakozoid about avoiding spoilers... to an extent.

A whiz-bang of a book. Absolutely wonderful.

Check out Neil Gaiman's website here.

Rated: 5 out of 5

No comments: