#22 “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman – Part One

  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  13. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  14. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  15. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  16. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  17. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby

I came up with a word for people like me a few months ago. The word is “Gaimaniac” and I feel that this word needs to be added into the Oxford English Dictionary. Because I am 100% sure that this word will catch on:

Gaimaniac: A die hard fan of the author, Neil Gaiman.

For anyone familiar with my literary tastes, I have two favourite authors:
1. Cassandra Clare
2. Neil Gaiman
I adore Clare for her characters, but I worship Gaiman for his way with words. If these two ever collaborated and wrote a book together, I think that they would break the publishing industry.
So, because of my obsession with all things Gaiman, this “review” (code for paragraphs upon paragraphs of literary fangirl ramblings) will be split up into parts. Otherwise, this “review” will never end. Because I am going to talk about each and every story/poem in this book. Gaiman deserves nothing less than my undivided adoration.

A Study In Emerald
This was my second time through this story. The first time was a hastily devoured reading after being told that two of my favourite things, Neil Gaiman and Sherlock Holmes, had been combined. And because I was in such a hurry to download the story into my brain, I glossed over important plot points that were needed for this entire story to make sense.

In the foreword, Mr. Gaiman describes his story as a mixture between Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read anything by Lovecraft, but I may just have to start. This story is still set in 19th century London, but with a few twists that I totally thought were metaphorical the first time around. The best way to summarise the twisted elements in this story would be from this dialogue between Holmes and his companion:

“What do you know of the Restorationists?”
“Not a blessed thing,” I told him.
Lestrade coughed. “If you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about,” he said, “perhaps we should leave it there. Enough’s enough.”
“Too late for that,” said my friend. “For there are those who do not believe that the coming of the Old Ones was the fine thing we all know it to be. Anarchists to a man, they would see the old ways restored – mankind in control of its own destiny, if you will.”
“I will not hear this sedition spoken,” said Lestrade. “I must warn you – ”
“I must warn you not to be such a fathead,” said my friend. “Because it was the Restorationists who killed Prince Franz Drago. They murder, they kill, in a   vain effort to force our masters to leave us alone in the darkness.”

Everything is exactly the same. There are carriages, street urchins, florins, sixpence, the theatre, pipes. Only the royal family is, in fact, an alien race and they claim dominance over humanity. See, my first time through A Study in Emerald, I thought that all the talk about the “otherness” of the royal family was just metaphor for class. But no, the royal family really was a completely different race.
This is a story that definitely needed to be read more than once. Or really, really slowly the first time. Because Gaiman just throws you into his world, as the narrator wouldn’t need to have things explained to him. This is not a bad thing, it just means that you need to pay attention to what’s being said. That being said, I don’t know how I missed this:

The moon rose in the painted sky, and then, at its height, in one final moment of theatrical magic, it turned from a pallid yellow, as it was in the old tales, to the comforting crimson of the moon that shines down upon us all today.

A red moon. Duh, Bec, this is sci-fi!

There is also a delicious twist at the end that you just will not see coming. Seriously, I still get a little fangirl shiver every time I read that one line. Which I won’t post here because you should just read this story!

The Fairy Reel
This is poetry. And I am nowhere near being well-equipped enough to review poetry. I don’t read or write enough of it to know what’s good. I’m going to assume this piece is a masterpiece because it was written by Gaiman and I could actually semi-understand the metaphors. But all I can really say is that it is like Gaiman took one of his stories and distilled his genius into just a few lines.

October in the Chair
Gaiman is the master of the slightly-off-kilter story. If you’ve read American Gods, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This story is, in fact, two stories. Imagine the months of the year as people, who gather once a month to exchange stories. The month that reigns sits in a wooden throne and tells their story last. In this story, October is in the chair (therefore, October in the Chair). The concept is genius. And October’s story, of a young boy that runs away from home, is genius.
This is one of those quiet stories with a subliminal meaning that sneaks up on you. This one’s all about family and magic and the consequences of neglect.

…only October and his neighbour remained.
“Your turn in the chair next time,” said October.
“I know,” said November. He was pale and thin-lipped. He helped October out of the wooden chair. “I like your stories. Mine are always too dark.”
“I don’t think so,” said October. “It’s just that your nights are longer. And you aren’t as warm.”
“Put it like that,” said November, “and I feel better. I suppose we can’t help who we are.”
“That’s the spirit,” said his brother.

It’s beautiful and short and I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this book up!

The Hidden Chamber
This is another poem. Well, I say poem. It’s a prose poem: a piece that reads like poetey but is set out like prose. Which makes the thing so much easier to read. This poem’s quite dark, but kind of in a melancholic way. Like, a wistful darkness as opposed to a scary one. Even if the last image is of a woman running from a house in the middle of the night in her shift, with blood on her feet from the sharp edges of the stones.
I think I could like poetry, if it all read like Gaiman’s poetry.

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire
I think this story is a longer version of the poem that proceeds it. The woman in the shift with the bloody feet becomes a character in a story being written by another character.
I will forever be in awe of Neil Gaiman, for his ability to create worlds and atmospheres and lives within only a scant number of pages. In this story we have the story of Amelia Earnshawe that changes with each passing section because her co-protagonist keeps changing her story.
It’s almost meta fiction, this tale. A story about writing stories, and yet there are elements of the fantastic and weird and gothic in both parts. We are never sure which century we are in, the identity of the author character, or what is so important about this “night of all nights”.
This particular tale is more atmospheric than anything else. The stories within it encapsulate so much that it is hard to actually label them “stories”. But you keep reading, even though you know that there are no answers are forthcoming because you enjoy the tale-with-no-end regardless. Gaiman is that good.

The Flints of Memory Lane

“I like things to be story-shaped. Reality, however, is not story shaped, and the eruptions of odd into our lives are not story-shaped either.”

This particular story is an incredibly short memoir about the time Gaiman ran into a ghost at fifteen year olds. It reads exactly like his fiction, which is amazing in and of itself. My memoir and my fiction sound remarkably different, but Gaiman still manages to inject some magic into his memoirs.
I like that Gaiman doesn’t try to force his memory into a story structure. Instead, he lets his emotions and the setting of the story act as the foundations for his memories. Which is what all good memoirs should do. There is nothing truer than the emotions you feel at any given moment. Emotions can’t lie. You can’t lie away how you feel. They’re just there. Gaiman harnesses that fact and uses it to make us feel just as scared of the gypsy woman on that barely-lit lane as he would have, all those years ago.


About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
This entry was posted in Extorting Bibliophilia, My Fangirl Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to #22 “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman – Part One

  1. I just recently picked up my second Gaiman book–Neverwhere. I started reading it on my commute on the Tube, and I absolutely love reading about London Below. I’m going to put this one on my list to read! Very well written review 🙂 -The Collectress

    • Bec Graham says:

      OMG NEVERWHERE IS AMAZING. YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE IS AMAZING? THE RADIO PLAY. Here’s just a TASTE of the cast: James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, and Bernard Cribbins. Neverwhere actually started as a TV show starring, get this, PETER CAPALDI, about ten years ago. The book, Neverwhere, is actually is novelisation.

      I am so glad someone else is reading Neverwhere! And you know the Marquis d’Carabas (or however you spell it?) he was based on Puss in Boots.

      And there is a bench in the UK, most likely London, that is decorated with Neverwhere designs all over it.

      See? Gaimaniac.

      And thanks for the compliment. I tried a little harder with this one because it’s Gaiman 🙂

      • 1. I did know about the radio play. It’s the biggest reason I chose to read this book before the rest of his works.
        2. I must find this bench.
        3. Gaimaniacs is a blessed word.
        4. The Marquis is my favourite 🙂

      • Bec Graham says:

        Ohhhh if the Marquis is your favourite, Gaiman actually released a little Marquis spin-off called How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, or something to that effect. I haven’t read it yet, but I most definitely will be.

        And if we start trending “Gaimaniac” on Twitter, we may actually be getting somewhere! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Book of the Month: “Neverwhere” | The Collective

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