“‘You can find winter snow here, in the shadows, in the summer. Things last a long time, in the shadows.'”
“Fragile Thing0s: Short Fictions and Wonders” by Neil Gaiman
When Grace over at Books Without Any Pictures was reading Fragile Things and did a review, I remarked on how I should really read this collection of Neil Gaiman’s short stories, considering how much of a fan I was of his novels, especially American Gods. The very next day, I encountered my roommate’s copy of Fragile Things, and took it as as sign to pick it up and start reading it, and so I did, leading to a mixed bag of experience and feeling about these little snippets of Gaiman’s work.
Overall, I felt general unimpressed with most of the stories in Fragile Things, though I can’t determine whether this was mostly because I think so highly of his novels or just that the book starts with an introduction of Gaiman describing the process of writing some of these stories, which set a tone for the book that I didn’t much like. I don’t like leaving introductions or prologues unread; if they’re there, then someone wanted me to read t hem. But Gaiman goes through and explains how each story came about (usually a request for an anthology), which came off as a little snobbish and self-important. I wrote this for this friend because I was asked, la-di-dah. And I feel this sort of exploration on the hows and whys of a story are better suited for an epilogue at the end of a book; I would rather discover the story myself first, and then discover that information, though, as I was reading some stories, I found myself flipping back to Gaiman’s thoughts on create it. Still, I feel introducing the stories in this way set a tone for the book that made me want to be skeptical and doubtful and perhaps a little overly critical of the work.
As a result, a lot of the stories felt a little forced or generally interesting, but not remarkable. I discussed it a little with my roommate, and she agreed with my feelings that Gaiman’s short stories tend to be a little…unfinished. There’s a great concept, a great idea, and a great start, but they seem just mere blips in his fantastic imagination rather than a fully-realized idea from beginning to end. Most of the stories left me a little bit wanting, left me feeling like there was something more that was being held from me.
There is some beautiful language in these stories, though, as I would expect from Gaiman, and some completely haunting and beautiful imagery, as well. I adored quite a few of the stories, which made up for the ones that I kind of liked, but thought were a bit lacking. I felt some of the language (repetition of words is a little quirk that drives me crazy, and I felt that was something that surfaced often) could have been better polished, but I also feel perhaps I’m being overly critical. As a fan of American Gods, I found “The Monarch on the Glen,” an American Gods novella, incredibly satisfying and enjoyable, but my favorite story was easily “Bitter Grounds,” reminding me of my utter love affair with New Orleans, though I wonder if I was as fond of it as I was because it reminded me a little bit of Poppy Z. Brite’s early short stories. “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire” was an absolute delight. “Feeders and Eaters” left me legitimately chilled, and “Harlequin Romance” was among my favorites as well. This collection also included “The Problem of Susan,” a short story of Gaiman that I’d heard about and wanted to read for a very long time, and it was very fascinating, but I think it requires a bit more reading and consideration in the future.
Over all, I enjoyed many of the stories in Fragile Things, though I believe I much prefer Gaiman’s novels, and, for all of his undeniable talent, the book itself just had a little bit too much of a tone of self-indulgence about it that was faintly off-putting.
Books read: 58/100.