Sunday, November 12, 2006

Review: Fragile Things

To be quite honest, I'm entirely biased about Neil Gaiman. I think he's brilliant. A well-loved copy of Stardust travels the world with me. (Well, it came to Japan and back, then to Los Angeles.) It's due for another reading, but just seeing it on the shelf has a comforting effect. The Stardust movie is, by the by, coming out in July 2007.

That said, it's always a bit hit and a miss for me when it comes to his short story collections. I can't fault him for his writing, but there's always a number of included pieces that just don't do anything for me. Is Fragile Things a "better" collection than Smoke and Mirrors? Possibly. While there's still the pieces that don't connect with me, at least I appreciate the way he's put those pieces together on a page.

What I always love most about his collections is the introduction. Biographies for the stories included, and always a story within the introduction—stories within stories feature in so much of his work. Smoke and Mirrors had The Wedding Gift, and Fragile Things has The Mapmaker. It was originally written to be included in American Gods, but he couldn't find a place for it.

This is how The Mapmaker begins: "One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story."

If that doesn't strike your fancy, there are thirty-one other flavors to choose from. Might I recommend my favorites?

1) Harlequin Valentine: a delightfully odd, wonderfully written little gem. Not for the faint of heart, but worth every creepy moment.

2) The Monarch of the Glen: an American Gods' novella that's no more a sequel than Anansai Boys was, but does detail one of the further adventures of Shadow. I liked this better than the original novel.

3) Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire: The strangest, most effective take on the question "why write fantasy" that I've ever read.

4) Locks: a beautiful poem about the importance of stories.

5) The Fairy Reel: a poem as musical as the dangerous enchanting song it describes.

6) Instructions: how to survive in a fairy tale. I do believe they ought to be handed out to every child, because you never know when you might need them.

There's also Feeders and Eaters, Closing Time, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and October in the Chair that are memorable inclusions. They're subtle, which makes them stronger tales.

If you've never read Gaiman before, Fragile Things is a good starting place. If you're a Gaiman fan, you're already going to read it, right?

Rating: A-

1 comment:

Rae said...

Wow! You know when I was talking to you the other day I felt sure you were going to give it a C!