Fragile Things

Author: Neil Gaiman

Type: Fiction, short stories

Full title: Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Published: 2006

I read it: September 2010

fragile things

This was my first Gaiman experience, and it was a worthwhile one. The collection is composed of short stories, poems, and a long story/novella at the end. There are spooks and creeps and cranks and, every once in a while, a hero, or at least someone who at the end of the story is not a monster. A few highlights are: “Sunbird,” a tale of Epicureans on a quest to eat a phoenix; “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” which outlines just that, but adding how the girls are a little, um, alien; “Goliath,” a trippy time/reality-travel tale akin to The Matrix; and “The Problem of Susan,” an impressive intra-literary story that travels the same ground as Lev Grossman in The Magicians only much, much better and in far fewer pages.

The downside is that the collection is way too long and has no cohesive vision. It’s the mixtape instead of the album. This seems a good fit for Gaiman because he does a lot of slapdash writing. Is that the right word? I mean that he cranks out stories for various people or collections intentionally, usually at their request. So he rarely writes stories with the intent that they will be presented side-by-side. I generally like this because Gaiman is not afraid to be commercial, or to play the role of the rock star writer. Indeed, it’s more than boasty that in Fragile Things, the notes to the stories are given before, not after, the collection begins. It’s amusing if you don’t hate him for it, and even more amusing when he congratulates himself on the various awards he’s won for these tales. But so be it. More people should write stories that make money and win awards, and not be too faux-self-conscious to talk about it.

After dipping my feet, I’m looking forward to plunging into my first Gaiman novel. Coraline, anyone?

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