Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders is compilation of various works written by Neil Gaiman, published on 2006-09-26. It includes short stories, poems, a novella, and album liner notes.
After becoming a fan of Gaimen's work from reading his earlier books, I found this one at Barnes & Noble and read one of the short stories. I enjoyed it enough to buy it in 2007. I started taking it with me to read at dinner, but I only read a couple other stories out of it before shelving it. Years later, I picked it up again and finished it on 2022-05-17.
I own a first edition US hardcover, I have read it.
|"A Study in Emerald"||A pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu Mythos. I enjoyed this one and wanted it to go on longer.|
|"The Fairy Reel"||A short poem. I forgot it immediately after reading it.|
|"October in the Chair"||An early idea for The Graveyard Book. Personifications of the months meet to tell stories and October tells a sad tale of a runaway boy meeting a ghostly playmate. Inspired by Ray Bradbury. This one was quite good.|
|"The Hidden Chamber"||Gothic poem about Bluebeard for the anthology Outsiders. I don't remember it.|
|"Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire"||A hilarious Gothic story where the ridiculous tropes of pulp Gothic fiction are real, and normal life is escapist fantasy. Published in the anthology Gothic!|
|"The Flints of Memory Lane"||A very short story about the only ghostly memory Gaimen has.|
|"Closing Time"||A creepy ghost story involving children inspired by M. R. James and Robert Aickman. Quite enjoyable.|
|"Going Wodwo"||A poem about a wild man. Published in the The Green Man. I don't remember it.|
|"Bitter Grounds"||A story about the zombies of Haiti. I liked most of the story, but I didn't really understand how it got to the ending. Published in Mojo: Conjure Stories.|
|"Other People"||Originally titled "Afterlife." A short about being tortured in hell.|
|"The Mapmaker"||Exists in the introduction. Meant to be in American Gods, but never found a good spot for it. About a Chinese emperor who dumped all the empire's money into a highly accurate model of her empire. A bit dull.|
|"Keepsakes and Treasures: A Love Story"||About a boy who murders the people who wronged his mother then becomes a bodyguard of a eccentric billionaire. Began as a comic for It's Dark in London. Contains characters from "The Monarch of the Glen." I liked this one.|
|"Good Boys Deserve Favors"||Inspired by a statue by Lisa Snellings-Clark of a man holding a double bass. A boy who can't play well plays a great song when it counts, then never again. Kind of dull.|
|"The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch"||Friends take an annoying woman to a Vaudevillian show, and her wish ends up being fulfilled. Inspired by a painting by Frank Frazetta of a savage woman flanked by tigers. The bulk of it was good, but I didn't care for the ending.|
|"Strange Little Girls"||Twelve very short stories to accompany the Tori Amos CD Strange Little Girls. Each story is based on a song from the album. Some began to evoke a feeling in me, but they were too short to do much.|
|"Harlequin Valentine"||A morbid tale based on art made by Lisa Snellings-Clark using the traditional Harlequinade as a model. First published in Strange Attraction in 1999. I love this one. It has been adapted to a graphic novel which is also enjoyable.|
|"Locks"||A poem about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. As told from father to child. Didn't care for it.|
|"The Problem of Susan"||Published in Flights. Written about the character Susan in the Chronicles of Narnia. I like the issue it brings up, but I don't like how it's handled. The Mary Poppins part is great though.|
|"Instructions"||A poem giving instructions about what to do when you find yourself in a fairy tale (based on the morals and tropes common to them). Later republished as a picture book. I enjoyed this one.|
|"How Do You Think It Feels?"||A story inspired by gargoyles, in this case, protecting the heart. It's sexy, romantic, and bleak. I like it, but it makes me sad.|
|"My Life"||A monologue written to accompany a picture of a sock monkey in Arne Svenson's book, Sock Monkeys. A barfly describes his literally unbelievable life. Worth a chuckle.|
|"Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot"||Fifteen very short vampire stories, each based on a card from a Tarot deck. Some are interesting, but they're too short to have depth.|
|"Feeders and Eaters"||Based on a nightmare. It first took the form of a comic and later the outline for a pornographic horror film that never materialized. A little creepy, but not great.|
|"Diseasemaker's Croup"||Published in The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. Written in an old-timey style, it describes the disease of becoming too interested in the study of diseases. I like the idea, but didn't care for the prose.|
|"In the End"||Written as though it were the last book of the Bible. The events of the Garden of Eden happen in reverse. Clever, but too short.|
|"Goliath"||Set in the Matrix universe and published on the film's web site before the movie was released, then in The Matrix Comics Vol. 1. Sci-fi, with a hint of romance.|
|"Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky"||Written for the Tori Amos album, Scarlet's Walk. A collection of brief journal entries. It's interesting, but I don't know the album, so it doesn't make much sense to me.|
|"How to Talk to Girls at Parties"||Meant to be included in The Starry Rift, but it Neil didn't think it fit, later made into a film. About teen boys accidentally attending a party of aliens that happen to look like attractive teen girls. Quite enjoyable.|
|"The Day the Saucers Came"||Short narrative poem about the ridiculous end of the world. Starts silly, but has a dumb ending.|
|"Sunbird"||Written in the style of R. A. Lafferty as a birthday present for Gaiman's daughter. An Epicurean group feels like they've eaten every animal, but their oddest member suggests tracking down and eating the elusive (and probably mythical) sunbird. Starts weak, but I enjoyed it by the end.|
|"Inventing Aladdin"||A poem describing what Scheherazade was thinking when coming up with the tales of Arabian Nights. Not a fan.|
|"The Monarch of the Glen"||A novella-length sequel to American Gods inspired by Beowulf and set in remote areas of Scotland, features characters from "Keepsakes and Treasures: A Love Story." It was fun to be back with Shadow. The story gets really tense for awhile, and Shadow can never catch a break, but having Jennie save the day kind of makes the ending dubious. If she's that powerful, couldn't she have intervened earlier?|
— This section contains spoilers! —
- Gaiman is fantastic with creepy stories and dark humor, and this book has plenty of stories with both.
- Although there were a few duds, some of the stories were very enjoyable.
- I'm not much of a fan of poetry, so, most of the poetry I read in here didn't do anything for me.
- At least half of the books didn't do much for me, though, this was mostly the very short ones.
- "I hate to say this, but it is my experience that when a doctor goes to the bad, he is a fouler and darker creature than the worst cut-throat."
- "You know how it is when you love someone? And the hard part, the bad part, the Jerry Springer Show part is that you never stop loving someone. There's always a piece of them in your heart."
- "Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had told — told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything."
- "You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong."
- "He had read books, newspapers and magazines. He knew that if you ran away you sometimes met bad people who did bad things to you; but he had also read fairy tales, so he knew that there were kind people out there, side by side with the monsters."
- "There were faces at the windows and words written in blood; deep in the crypt a lonely ghoul crunched on something that might once have been alive; forked lightnings slashed the ebony night; the faceless were walking; all was right with the world."
- "There was Virginia Boote, the food and restaurant critic, who had once been a great beauty but was now a grand and magnificent ruin, and who delighted in her ruination."
- "I love dreams. I know enough about them to know that dream logic is not story logic, and that you can rarely bring a dream back as a tale: it will have transformed from gold into leaves, from silk to cobwebs, on waking."
- "Shadow found himself starting to like Smith. He told himself that liking this man was not a sensible thing to do. He had met people like Smith before, people without consciences, without scruples, without hearts, and they were uniformly as dangerous as they were likeable."