A year ago I wrote about American Gods and what a great surprise that was to me. And since then I’ve been meaning to read this book, mainly because it contains The Monarch of the Glen (an American Gods novella). I was so anxious to dive back into Shadow’s universe…but looking back, I actually think it’s better it took me a whole year to get around to it. Now I enjoyed it – then I would have been disappointed, because I expected a little more american gods and a little less “Shadow – 2 years later” – which is in fact the case. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly entertaining as a standalone and it is, like the rest of Fragile Things a mixture of innovation and classic stories and characters.
But Fragile Things is not just about this story; it is comprised of 27 short stories and poems; plus a really good introduction. In fact, the introduction is a perfect example of why I love Mr. Gaiman: it’s not just about the writing (I mean, it started with the writing), but it’s also the fact that he seems such a normal and down to earth guy: what the talks about, the familiarity of his stories, the constant updating of his blog – I know it’s part marketing (cultivation and conservation of a fan base), but I like to think he genuinely enjoys doing it all 🙂
Most of these stories had been previously published elsewhere and a few of them won the Locus award in various years…but some of them were less inspired. Or so they seemed to me – but that’s how it always is, right? I’ll just be talking about my favorites here 😉 Before I forget, a little piece of trivia: one of the stories (Goliath) was written for The Matrix website before the launch of the first movie and it takes place in the matrixverse (regardless of the turn the sequels took, no one can deny the first movie was pretty cool 😀 ).
October in the chair – probably the best of the whole book. I loved the idea behind it: the 12 months personified sitting around a tree stump and telling stories, I loved how it became a starting point for The Graveyard Book…but most of all I loved the melancholy I felt oozed from it. Very…octoberish – warm, embracing, comforting, yet with a barely concealed threat. It won a well deserved award in 2003.
The Flints of Memory Lane – a 4 page ghost story. I never thought I would be into ghost stories, but this book reminded me (not by any genre or style related similarity, but by the feeling it gave me) of how much I loved Poe in highschool.
The problem of Susan – perhaps not the best of the bunch, but I liked the imagining of a potential destiny for Susan of The Chronicles of Narnia. I hadn’t read the books and until now I didn’t know what her destiny was, but I liked how Mr. Gaiman envisioned the whole business. If something can be both surreal and mundane – than this story of Susan definitely is.
Sunbird – written for his daughter’s 18th birthday (is this not the best present ever?). An exclusive gourmet club, the chase for the ultimate tasting experience and the phoenix of Heliopolis – I really don’t want to give too much away, it’s really worth spending an hour with it.
About the poetry – I’m really a poor judge. All were fun to read, but I wouldn’t venture into a whole book of these little things. The best one was, to me, The Fairy Reel (maybe because it’s got a musical quality about it), so I’ll leave you with a little extract:
She’d leave it by a burning brook,
and off brown boys would run with it.
They’d take it and have fun with it
and stretch it long and cruel and thin,
They’d slice it into four and then
they’d string with it a violin.
And every day and every night
they’d play upon my heart a song
So plaintive and so wild and strange
that all who heard it danced along
You can read it all here.