Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things is an odd book.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

I knew it was going to be an odd book the moment I picked it up. The point was whether it was going to be a good kind of odd or bad kind of odd.

It turned out to be a good kind of odd.

A little background. I had heard of Neil Gaiman, mostly in connection with George R. R. Martin. I was planning to read a book by him sometime, especially because he's one of the few fantasy authors whose books come in the book store here. Of course, my buying this book would have involved days of research, days of reading reviews, and days of deciding whether this was the best book to start with. However, what ended up happening was this: I saw the book, with its shiny white cover, lying on the bookshelf. It called to me. I picked it up, read the back. I was intrigued. I sat down to read to read the introduction.

I was hooked.

The book called to me, and I'm so glad I replied.

Fragile Things is a book about, well, Fragile Things. Like Neil Gaiman puts it in the book - "It seemed like a fine title for a book of short stories. There are so many fragile things, after. People break so easily, after all, and so do dreams and hearts."

But for a book that is about transitory things, Fragile Things is still a very hopeful book. As a book, Fragile Things seems to be celebrating the beauty of all the soap water bubbles in the world that are so beautiful and so easy to break. At its heart, Fragile Things is a book about hope, and fairy tales, and about writing that lives longer than the person who wrote it.

There are many strange stories and poems in this collection, from a story about a boy who makes friends with a ghost that is told by the months of the year, to a poem about what to do when you're in a fairytale, to a story about Susan, from C.S. Lewis' Narnia novels, the dismissal of which Gaiman (and I, incidentally) found very problematic and irritating. There are stories which don't make sense immediately. There are stories which leave you thinking. There are funny stories, sad stories, scary stories. There is some 'upsettling' stuff in this novel, as well as some extremely sad stuff.

Read this book if you're not afraid to try something a little different. Read this book if you can deal with (or relish) a little bit of oddness. Read this book with an open heart and mind. Read this book without thinking about any 'fantasy' that you may have read before, because this book is not going to be like any of that. Read the introduction of each story/poem right before reading the story or poem because it will really add to your appreciation of the poem or story. Read this book if you're in for something new.

Don't be put-off if you read many unfamiliar names in the introductions. I can assure you that I did not know about 90% of the authors mentioned in the introductions, and that did not stop me from enjoying the book at all, though now I'm tempted to read all the authors mentioned and hear all the songs mentioned. I'm sure that a knowledge of the mentioned literature adds richness to the book, but it is not a prerequisite to reading the book.

This book is great (and quick) way to know whether or not you like Gaiman's style of writing. My verdict? I definitely want to read more. Maybe American Gods.

Last words: Read this book only if you're fine with things being a little bit out of the ordinary. Don't judge too quickly. Read it with a sense of humor. And get ready for a few hours of pure fun.

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