Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Title:  Fragile Things:  Short Fictions and Wonders

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Paperback:  376 pages

Publisher:  Harper Perennial

Publish Date:  2006

ISBN:  9780060515225

Miscellaneous:  This is a P.S. edition

Colors seemed brighter because Becky was there. I began to notice parts of life I had never seen before: I saw the elegant intricacy of flowers, because Becky loved flowers; I became a fan of silent movies, because Becky loved silent movies, and I watched The Thief of Baghdad and Sherlock Junior over and over; I began to accumulate CDs and tapes, because Becky loved music, and I loved her, and I loved to love what she loved. I had never heard music before; never understood the black-and-white grace of a silent clown before; never touched or smelled or properly looked at a flower, before I met her.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wondersby Neil Gaiman. “How Do You Think It Feels?”, pages 196-197.

 

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders is my first experience with Gaiman, but it will most certainly NOT be my last. I am absolutely impressed with Gaiman’s writing, imagination, skill as a storyteller (a weaver of magic, really), and this book will be one of the few books I read that will NOT be posted in my BookMooch or PBS inventory. Truly, Fragile Things is now one of my favorite books, and I want to read it again and again until the pages fall out, then tape them all back in and read it again and again until the ink has worn away.

There is much in Fragile Things that should count as literature and should, in time, be counted as classic literature. Reading a bit like Bradbury (one of the stories is dedicated to him, who, as Gaiman puts it, could have written it much better than Gaiman himself.), mixed with C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll… even a bit of a feel of Roald Dahl and The Brothers Grimm, Gaiman weaves stories and poems that capture the sensations of dreaming, while being mesmerizing and excited the reader’s anticipation at the same time.

I could write a book on this book, and if I were a literature teacher, I would definately use Fragile Things as one of the books to pull from (or at least parts of the book… while my library has classified this book as a Young Adult, I believe it should be in the adult section, as more than a couple stories deal with, hint at, or just out and out have sexually explicit content, as well as the liberal use of the word “fuck” in a couple stories.).

As this book contains fourteen different works, I’m not going to review each one. Instead, I want to bring out a few of my favorites. First off, I want to share what is now one of my favorite poems. As a poet, Gaiman has a Shel Silverstein feel, as well, who is one of my favorite poets.

GOING WODWO
(A wodwo, or wodwose, was a wild man if the woods.)

Shedding my shirt, my book, my coat, my life
Leaving them, empty husks and fallen leaves
Going in search of food and for a spring
Of sweet water.

I’ll find a tree as wide as ten fat men
Clear water rilling over its gray roots
Berries I’ll find, and crabapples and nuts.
And call it home.

I’ll tell the wind my name, and no one else.
True madness takes or leaves us in the wood
halfway through all our lives. My skin will be
my face now.

I must be nuts. Sense left with shoes and house,
my guts are cramped. I’ll stumble through the green
back to my roots, and leaves and thorns and buds,
and shiver.

I’ll leave the way of words to walk the wood
I’ll be the forest’s man, and greet the sun,
And feel the silence blossom on my tongue
like language.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wondersby Neil Gaiman. “Going Wodwo” page 83

The first short story is called “A Study in Emerald”in which Gaiman marries the world of Sherlock Holmes to a world H. P. Lovecraft might create. The resulting work retains the essence of Holmes, while the subtleties of the London of New Albion, the England of an alternate timeline, slowly bloom with the discovery of the name of the murder being a surprise to any Holmes fan.

The short story, “Other People”, is one of my favorites and I’ve already read it three times, and plan to copy it to MSWorks and save it to my computer. It’s shocking, a bit terrifying, and, in the end, a sense of resignation and acceptance of “the way things are” are felt by the reader. “Other People” paints a suppositional picture of Hell, one in which I could totally believe, where after agonizing physical torture is followed by the reliving, re-experiencing, recounting, every bad thing the man has done or lies told, and stretches his realization of how these things effected the people not only in his life, but also strangers he’d never even known. And once all that is done and all that he is left with is truth and self-loathing, he fully understands how things work there. The first and last line of this story is “Time is fluid here,” and it is.

The short story “Goliath”was a story commissioned for The Matrix website to accompany the release of the movie. After reading the script for the movie, Gaiman wrote “Goliath”. It is NOT a short story version of the movie, but rather, takes the concept of humans living in the pods, their brains being used as RAM for a supercomputer. The hero of the story suffers from gigantism and has always felt out of place and clumsy. But it’s all revealed to him why he was created that way, which gives him a sense of purpose and joy… but that joy is short lived when he realizes he is just an expendable part of the machinery to those running the machine. The last 28 minutes of his life makes you ask yourself the question: Would you choose the red pill or blue pill?

THE DAY THE SAUCERS CAME

That day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and
stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed, to find what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn’t notice it because

That day, the day the saucers came, by some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was the zombie day, it was
Rangnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-men’s nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold,
and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling-gods
day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true
brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across
the land, and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day, the
day the great winds came
And snows, and the cities turned to crystal, the day
Computers turned, the screens telling
us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of
the Time Machine day,
You didn’t notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wondersby Neil Gaiman. “The Day The Saucers Came” pages 271-272

Adding to the amazing creativity contained within these pages, the order of the stories and poems have been painstakingly and very effectively arranged so that each progressive story builds on the previous, giving a reader something not felt in most short story collections:  continuity.

I give Fragile Things:  Short Fictions and Wondersby Neil Gaiman five out of five stars, and place it on my shelf next to my Lord of the Rings collection, complete works of Lewis Carroll, my Chronicles of Narnia collection, my Grimms and Andersens.  A true classic of storytelling.

Hated it!Didn't like itLiked itReally liked itLoved it!

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers – Factoid #4

Okay, after yesterday’s… and the day before… post, I am sick (literally) of buggy facts. So today is a bug-free factoid!

Today, I wanted to post the answer to a question most of us have asked at least once in our lives.

What does human flesh taste like?

In 1972, survivors of a Uruguayan plane crash were stranded in the Andes. To avoid starvation, they decided to eat the flesh of fellow passengers killed in the accident. After they were rescued, survivors said that they had cooked the meat briefly and “the slight browning of the flesh gave it an immeasurably better flavor – softer than beef but with much the same taste.”

However, infamous murderer Arthur Shawcross, who took the lives of eleven women in New York from 1989 to 1990, said cooked human flesh tastes like a nice roast pork.

Whether human flesh tastes like pork or beef, the fact remains that it can be dangerous to partake of such a diet. In the 1960s, there were epidemic levels of a rare and fatal brain disorder called kuru among the Fore (pronounced for-ay) tribespeople who lived in the highlands of Papau New Guinea. Many of them died from kuru during this period, and their deaths are thought to have been caused by the transmission of a virus-like particle, through the tribal practice of cannibalism.

Traditionally, when a member of the group died, he or she would be dissected and wrapped, and then steamed in a fire. During the funeral the brain would be presented to the closest female relative, and she and her children would be given the honor of eating it. Unfortunately, the virus-like particle which causes kuru is found in highest concentration in the brain. Consequently, the Fore’s traditional rites were the key factor in the spread of this disease.

The tribespeople believed that kuru was caused by sorcery and could not be convinced that it was due to eating human remains. However, despite this, most of them did stop eating human body parts once they were ordered to do so by police and threatened with imprisonment. Once the cannibalism was stopped, the disease also abated.

Fritz Haarmann (1879-1925) became known as the “Butcher of Hanover” and was thought to have been responsible for the deaths of up to fifty boys and men. After Germany’s First World War defeat, Haarmann opened a butcher’s shop The shop prospered, mainly because he sold cheap, fresh meat at a time of great hunger when meat was scarce. After attacking and killing his victims, Haarmann would chop up their bodies and make them into sausage meat, which he cooked and served to his favorite customers. In 1924, a woman who had bought some of his beef became suspicious and contacted the police. The meat was sent to an expert analyst, who somehow concluded that the meat was in fact pork! Nonetheless, the police eventually found grisly evidence for twenty-seven of the murders, and Haarman was sentenced to death by beheading.

Discussions around our dinner table while I was growing up got around to this topic from time to time. Often, when my working mom was asked “what’s for dinner?” for the twenty-seventh time of the evening, she would irritably replay “Long Pork” and give us the stink-eye.

But is it pork? or is it beef, like the the Andes crash survivor’s said? Issei Sagawa, the son of a wealthy Tokyo industrialist, said it had no smell or taste, but rather melted in his mouth like raw tuna. I, personally, am not willing to find out.

For more info on cannibalizing serial killers, visit Cannibals Anonymous. Some of the info is creepy (okay, all of it), and after a few bites of stories, you definitely get your fill, but it is a buffet of abnormal psych laid out in a most palatable fashion.  I never knew there was such a variety of psychopaths!  😉

This post is part of the Boogers and Book Bucks Giveaway. Don’t forget to enter at the original post for your official entry. Comments here count as a bonus entry 😀