Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

“Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles…
Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.”
-Neil Gaiman

 

I always possess this notion that books have a sort of “ripening” in the mind of a reader. I find myself relating more easily to certain titles depending on the mental state that I am in. Months ago, I purchased this Neil Gaiman title from my friend to check out what the fuss was about on Gaiman’s writing. I tried reading but never got past the Introductory Notes. I decided to shelve it until I find the right time. Last week, I decided to check it out again and chose it over a Chinese contemporary non-fiction piece that I began reading. It was delightfully ripe for reading. My mind was finally ready for this book.

It’s dark and beautiful. I would say that it’s the next best thing to really walking inside the head of Gaiman, a literary genius. Some people awarded different short stories in this anthology. I have my own personal favorites. If I may liken the book to a woman, it’s the type of woman who broods silently in the backdrop, almost seemingly irrelevant. But she grows on you over time, like some sort of dark magic. That despite the gothic look, you will find enchantment and allure and an interesting dimension that you will not easily find in happy endings or fairy tale stories.

Here are the ones I find memorable, in order of its appearance in the book

The Mapmaker

This is not part of the official list of stories in Fragile Things. But it’s part of the Introduction to the stories. I find it refreshing that an author would take departures from usual structures. He just placed it as an introductory material for one of the short stories.

A Study in Emerald

This fascinated me a lot because I am a huge fan of the British playful remake of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. This was the story that served as inspiration for the pilot episode. In the TV series, it was “A Study in Pink” and involved some form of advertising agency woman victim. It was as amazingly written as it was depicted on screen.

October in the Chair

I like animating inanimate objects, and this appealed to me personally. Moreover, he mentioned that this story was dedicated to Ray Bradbury, another skilled author I had the pleasure of reading last year. Something about the time elements being placed side by side on a bonfire, telling stories like they were people, really left me breathless. I enjoyed this story so much. I know that I am excused from gushing too much; after all, this is a Neil Gaiman creation.

Instructions

The writing was not so poignant for me but the whole spin or idea of it was plain interesting and intriguing. It is a poem that provides instructions on how you can carry yourself if you wake up and find yourself in a fairy tale. This author is really full of cool things in his head, I swear.

How Do You Think it Feels?

I watched I, Frankenstein with my favorite web dev friends some weeks back. The whole concept of gargoyles got embedded in my head since then. A dark anthology of Neil Gaiman’s Freudian literary fantasies cease to be complete without a gargoyle story. Like his other short stories, there is an original spin to it and this one in particular had lots of steam in it. Gargoyle and steam do not usually go together but he did it, anyway.

Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot

I liked this story mainly because it involves vampires. It’s a painful fetish I have.

Goliath

I was not really much of a Matrix fan in my younger years. But this had me wanting to watch it again. The Goliath short story was part of the stories released online before the movie was shown, some form of promotional material. He played with time and space and the concept of reality. It took me to earth and outside earth and time and outside the usual linear way with which we see time. It’s a good read.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

“We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.

Aliens in parties. That’s a bit like Doctor Who but this short story involves two adolescent boys who reaches the edge of their exploration, that point where experimentation ends and real life permanent consequences begins.

Inventing Aladdin

“We save our lives in such unlikely ways.”

I genuinely think that people who love to write will enjoy this one or the other story entitled The Problem of Susan. It was not so much focused on Aladdin but more on how Aladdin was made, at least in the playful imagination of Mr. Gaiman.

The Monarch of the Glen

This novella was the finale for the anthology and it was placed there for good reason. It’s a novella of the characters of Shadow and Mr. Alice from another one of his novels. I plan to read the novel next for a better appreciation of this character. 

It is my first time to read a Gaiman book, and I believe that  this provided me with a good idea of his literary range, kind of like when soprano singers hit notes by the octave and floor the rest of the croaking mortals of this planet. Neil Gaiman is a writer’s writer, contemporary, quick- witted, and humorous even in unexpected places like darkness. This instantly became a favorite and I think I will be looking out for more Gaiman titles. (I have some e-books but the physical experience is still more special for me, personally. )

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