Smoke and Mirrors
I’ll wait until you sleep, then take my fill
And that will be your future on a plate.
They’ll call it chance, or luck, or call it fate.
It wasn’t meant to, but this ended up being my first hospital read. And, while I admit that talking about one’s health is annoyingly grandma-like, I really feel the need to say that Thursday I’ve had my very first (minor) surgery ever. And that I spent 3 days in the hospital – 3 days which felt like 3 years – doing much less reading than I anticipated (I actually read about 100 pgs of the designated hospital book – the next post will be about that) and much more House re-watching (sort of odd, being in a hospital and watching a TV show about a hospital).
Anyways, Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories and poems – and that fact alone should tell you that I loved it. Actually, at times, I was so completely ensnared, entranced, that I all but forgot where I really was. Mr. Gaiman really has a most unique gift and – at the risk of sounding too fangirlish – I would read just about anything if it had his name on the cover.
There are about 30 stories, ranging from 1 page to 30 or 40, all originally written for various magazines and anthologies. The introduction contains a “bonus story” (a sort of riff on Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray and one of my favorite bits of the book) and a few words about how each piece of writing came to be. Which I thought was just perfect (but not surprising, because Fragile Things is constructed in much the same way) because I’m a sucker for behind the scenes looks and, as the House writers so nicely put it, if the wonder’s gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder. And this book is all wonder. There’s reinterpretations of folk stories (Bluebeard, and a particularly twisted version of Snow White) and legends (Beowulf – written while he was working on the screenplay for what was to become a pretty crappy movie or the fall of Lucifer – this latter being brilliantly transformed in a murder mystery), original pieces, some even inspired by his own experiences, tributes to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft (2 stories set in Innsmouth which I couldn’t fully appreciate since I’ve never read anything by Mr. Lovecraft) and many other pretty amazing things. My personal recommendations – The Wedding Present, Chivalry, The Price, Troll Bridge, Reading the Entrails, The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, We Can Get Them for you Wholesale, Murder Mysteries, Snow Glass Apples – although it would be easier just listing the whole table of contents. It’s just that good.