Years ago, I bought Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I love Neil Gaiman. For a long time, I only knew him as the author of the Sandman comic series. Later, I’ve discovered him as a great fanatasy writer as well. The novel American Gods are among the best I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Gaiman. It’s something about the way the supernatural is weaved into the ‘real’ world which is so fascinating and so natural you almost believe it.
Fragile Things. Had it for years, read it just recently. I cannot remember any particular reason for not reading it before, other than that I didn’t have time when I bought it. Fragile Things is a collection of ‘Short Fictions & Wonders.’ It also has a couple of poems. In the introduction, Gaiman tells a little bit about each story; how or where he came up with the idea, what inspired him, or what he wanted to do.
Some stories are longer than others. I tend to like the longer stories best. The first one, for example, A Study in Emerald, about an unusual murder investigation in seventeenth century London, could have filled the whole book if it were up to me. The same goes for Bitter Grounds, Goliath, Sunbird, and certainly The Monarch of the Glen, in which Shadow, the main character from American Gods get into trouble again. Other stories, like October in the Chair, Other People, Good Boys Deserve Favours, and Harlequin Valentine work perfect in the short format. My Life is an hillarious monologue by some sort of monkey and deserves to be read out loud in good company. The only problem is that it is too short! In the introduction, Gaiman writes, ‘I have no doubt that, given enough alcohol and a willing ear, it could go on for ever.’ I’m all ears.
Fragile Things are filled with all this wonder, and everyone should have something wonderful in their life. Gaiman is one way. Perhaps illegally, I bring the first couple of paragraphs from the short story Other People, just as a teaser:
‘Time is fluid here,’ said the demon.
He knew it was a demon the moment he saw it. He knew it, just as he knew the place was Hell. There was nothing else that either of them could have been.
The room was long, and the demon waited by a smoking brazier at the far end. A multitude of objects hung on the rock-grey walls, of the kind that it would not have been wise or reassuring to inspect too closely. The ceiling was low, the floor oddly insubstantial.
‘Come close,’ said the demon, and he did.
The demon was rake-thin, and naked. It was deeply scarred, and it appeard to have been flayed at some time in the distant past. It had no ears, no sex. Its lips were thin and ascetic, and its eyes were a demon’s eyes: they had seen too much and gone too far, and under thier gaze he felt less important than a fly.
‘What happens now?’ he asked.
‘Now,’ said the demon, in a voice that carried with it no sorrow, no relish, only a dreadful flat resignation, ‘you will be tortured.’
Alright, so perhaps Other People is not the most ideal story to bring wonder into your life; its still a little pearl of a story; Fragile Things is filled with them.