Kristen Boers's Reviews > Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
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Apr 24, 08

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Recommended for: Anyone who ever wanted to be seen as gothic and mysterious, just once in their lives.
Read in April, 2008

I owe Neil Gaiman a huge debt.
Not only for his exceptional contribution to literature, and the arts in general, over the last few years.
But for this reason: Reading "Fragile Things" has confirmed one of my greatest fears.

I don't like short story compilations.

It all started with Alice Munroe's "Hateship Loveship Friendship Courtship" or whatever it's called. I could not get through that book no matter how hard I tried. And I tried. Ever since then I have blamed my dislike of story compliations of the author(s) But oh! How unfair I have apparently been.

Here is Neil Gaiman, an author I always respect even when not enamored with his work and the best I could do to describe the book to a friend was "Ehhhh, it was good. Long. Not like, long long, but, long like, it too me a LONG time to read. I don't know why."

But now I do.

The pleasure in reading, for me, has always come from a connection to a character. Not a connection where I felt similair traits were present, but a connection where said character was a conduit for me into the world of the book, a guide and a cheerleader to keep on with my path.

Gaiman's book is full of characters, but none of them last longer than their individual story. I would find myself invested in a world only to have it ripped away from me 15 pages later. It is no coincidence that the stories I enjoyed the most were the ones that used an established character: Susan Pevensie from the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Susan" and Shadow from Gaiman's own "American Gods."

That being said, I'm not sure Gaiman's style is as well suited for the format of short story. Gaiman is an author who plops his reader down into the world of the book with very little exposition given first. There is none of the comfortable easing into it that so many contemporary authors rely on to hook their audeince. It is one of the thinks that makes him so popular with a certain kind of reader. That assumption that his audience will figure it out, and when they do they'll be so excited that they will hardly be able to stop themselves from turning back and starting from the beginning with their new knowledge.

These stories once you find yourself, forgive the pun, on the same page with the action you are reading, seem to end almost too abruptly. There is very little time for the joy of discovery to sink in, before the story is coming to it's mysterious conclusion.


"Harlequinn's Valentine" is great fun and "October in the Chair" is a heartbreaking ghost story: literally. If you find that you enjoyed this book, I would point you towards "Coraline" "American Gods" or "Anansi Boys." It's rather like the appetizer vs. the entree. It depends on how much you want.
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