Fragile Things

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fragile Things
by Neil Gaiman

Short story collections tend to be pretty hit or miss for me. I adore Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, but have been disappointed by collections with numerous authors. To me, they often feel like scraps or half-baked ideas tossed together in no discernable order. But when they’re done right, each story works as a stand alone, but also flows well with the rest of the collection.

I’m a sucker for Gaiman’s work, because his stories have a way of getting under my skin, in a good way. I can’t say I loved Fragile Things, but I did love some of the individual stories it contains. Even when the story itself wasn’t memorable, some of his phrases or characters were, which is a testament to Gaiman’s skill as a storyteller.

There were some pieces I liked more than others. I didn’t care for “Keepsakes and Treasures,” but thought the Sherlock Holmes-inspired tale, “A Study in Emerald,” was wonderful. I loved “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch," which is cheerfully dark, an odd balance only Gaiman seems to be able to pull off.

Another good one was a, spooky story, which follows a boy who runs away from home and meets a ghost. It felt like a precursor for The Graveyard Book. Fragile Things also contains a poem that I love, “Instructions,” which has since been turned into an illustrated children’s book.

This collection is best known for two stories; one featuring Shadow, the main character from American Gods, and the other is about Susan from the Narnia books. To be honest, these sections were two of my least favorite in the book, neither really worked for me.

If you’re already a fan of Gaiman’s work, I’d recommend this collection. For those hoping to try something of his, don’t start here, instead try Stardust, The Graveyard Book or the marvelous audio version of Anansi Boys.


Sandy Nawrot said...

You're right, it is hit or miss with short stories, but I have learned to love them through Lahiri. Gaiman is just a step or two off the beaten path, which I love. Sometimes he is bordering on weird, but he is different and clever and creative.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I loved A Study in Emerald (especially the ending--what a twist, right?), and I appreciated it even more after reading A Study in Scarlet. Great review. :)

Ellen said...

I share your thoughts on story anthologies, especially the best american series. There'll be one good story, a couple decent ones, one terrible one, and there never seems to be any real structure to the way the stories are organized.

I read Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples" recently and LOVED it. I can't say why I haven't read his work before (I think for about a year the movie Stardust turned me off - but apart from that year, what's my excuse?) but I can't wait to read more of his stories. I'll put this one on my list, though I'll check out his novels too.

Mumsy said...

Add "Neverwhere," and you have chosen four of my favorite Neil Gaiman books! I just got finished reading Nymeth's (of things mean a lot fame) account of meeting Neil Gaiman - lovely.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I don't know if you saw that we are group reading this one for the RIP Challenge, a few stories a week. I hope you'll come in on the Monday posts (beginning Sept. 12th) and weigh in on the stories since you just read this.

It is funny, I went back and read my review from when this first come out and gave it a similar so-so review. However, I've listened to the audio version several times since then and my opinion of the collection has went way up. There are still stories I don't like, The Problem with Susan for one, but overall I really enjoy the collection.

I do really like the one with Shadow at the end, but I am a fan of American Gods and it was great to see Shadow again.

Jenners said...

Reading Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories were such a revelation to me … I didn't know what could be done with the form until I read her stories. This sounds a bit uneven or for Gaiman lovers. Since I've never read him (yet), I'll start with the books you recommended.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - He is a bit off beat, but I love his stuff.

Darlyn - Yes, true fan fiction, (if you can call that story that) enhances your view of the original piece, it doesn't detract from it.

Ellen - Don't judge him by that movie! It missed the best part of his books, his quirky sense of humor. The reason Stardust was great was because it was poking fun at the genre, while somehow embracing it.

Mumsy - Oh, Neverwhere is wonderful! I did read Nymeth's post and I was so jealous/excited for her. What a great experience.

Carl V. - I saw! I'm absolutely going to join in the discussion. It's funny what you said about your review and your feelings now. I could absolutely see myself enjoying some of the stories even more on a second read. I did love the introduction!

Jenners - Yes, this isn't his best, but if you like him it's still good!

Jenny said...

Wow, I don't even remember the story about Shadow. I remember really liking the one called -- I think -- September in the Chair.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenny - Yes, it's October in the Chair, I loved that one!