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

  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
  18. More Than This – Patrick Ness

So I broke down and bought the book. Ages ago, when More Than This first came out, it was only available in hardcover. I categorically do not buy books in hardcover. For one, the pretty covers are always the flimsy-arse dust cover; for two, the glue from the hardcover usually falls away, leaving the story unprotected; and for three, they are a bitch to cover. Anyway, I was in the need of some serious retail therapy, so I just gave in and bought it. I probably should’ve bought Landlines, but when you’re committing yourself to retail therapy, you don’t usually do the most logical thing. I now have yet another book to look forward to.

I think I’m going to need an entire room, just for my books one day.

But moving on…

This poem was fantastic. It actually made me feel something. It was told in two parts, with one part being the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and the other part being the thoughts of the father reading his daughter a story. It was brilliantly done, using a tale we all know so well to reiterate the importance of telling each other stories. And how those stories are timeless because they’ve been passed down through the generations. What we got read as kids may be a little different to what we read to our own children (those of us who choose to have kids), even if it’s the same story. We may use different inflections, voices, or turns of phrase (if we’re making up the story ourselves), but in the end the story echoes through all of the bedtimes of our ancestors. And I think that’s beautiful.

The Problem of Susan
So, apparently, I need to reread The Chronicles of Narnia. This particular story is all about Susan, who was one of the four children from those stories, from what I can remember. I only ever read the series once, and I don’t even think I finished. The writing style got too dense for me. But, according to this story, all of the kids die in a train wreck except Susan. Really? What a cop out ending. Not only that, but apparently Susan’s being left behind is some big metaphor for being left out of Heaven/Narnia for liking make-up and pretty clothes. No wonder Gaiman decided to write Susan a different ending.
Except…I feel like the scene with the White Witch and Aslan (because I’m pretty sure that’s who the witch in white and the mighty lion were supposed to be) having sex was a bit much. I mean, there’s exploring all of the depths within children’s literature and then there’s just scaring kids to death. I love you, Mr. Gaiman, but I think that scene may have ruined a few childhoods.

Instructions for how to live your life if you were living in a fantasy world. That’s what I got from this poem. Although, all of the witches and wolves and wild woodsmen may be metaphors for the trials and tribulations (yes, look at all of the alliteration) of life. But I will never claim to be an expert on poetry and so this poem remains, to me, an instruction manual for those living in fantasy. Which, sometimes, I think I am.

My Life
More poetry! Except this one was very conversational, which I loved. It was a little more accessible for those of us who don’t know from poetry. It was like we were really sitting by this man in a bar and watching him getting more and more drunk until he was telling us the fantastic tales of how his mother had a sex change operation and how his wife melted. Maybe this poem was so accessible because it was so nonsensical. It made no sense and so it made all of the sense in the world.

Feeders and Eaters
Imagine being able to find the peace of mind to turn one of your more terrifying nightmares into a story for other people to enjoy. That would take some serious stomaching, I think. Some of my nightmares were too weird or terrifying to become anything other than something that had interrupted my REM sleep. But Gaiman turned one of his hideous dreams from when he was about my age, into a short story. It would have been horrendous to sleep through, but somehow Gaiman turned dream-logic into story-logic and got it all out on paper. It would have been incredibly cathartic. Maybe I should try that with some of my dreams.  But they probably wouldn’t make any sense.

Diseasemaker’s Croup
Well, then. This was one of those writerly stories. One of the ones that is incredibly hard to read, but that you can appreciate on a technical level. The narrator of this story is explaining to the reader the symptoms of a disease known as Diseasemaker’s Croup. The story starts off pretty straightforward, but as the narrator starts to go through the worsening stages of the disease, we see that our narrator is exhibiting the same symptoms.
This makes for an almost unintelligible read but if you appreciate the techniques that go into any work of literature, than this is definitely the story for you.

It didn’t even occur to me that this story was inspired by The Matrix, but it probably should have. Not just because of the content, but because Gaiman actually says so in the introduction. But, come on, that was about 290 pages ago.
Again, a nameless protagonist, but it’s in the first person so maybe it doesn’t matter. We follow him through his life, until he “wakes up” and realises that reality is actually false and that all of humanity are energy sources for someone else and the world’s being nuked by aliens (OK, so I really should’ve gotten The Matrix thing). The reason I didn’t was because the story doesn’t read like the movie. It reads like a Gaiman story. He works everyday occurrences into this story like a master-weaver and I get this little thrill of literary fan-ness every time. One day I want to shake Gaiman’s hand and be able to call him a genius to his face. Check this out:

“Enemy missile took out a central processing unit,” he said. “Two hundred thousand people, hooked up in parallel, blown to dead meat. We’ve got a mirror going, of course, and we’ll have it all up and running again in next to no time. You’re just free-floating here for a couple of nanoseconds while we get London processing again.”

And then the world lurched and I found myself coming to work again that morning, poured myself a cup of tea, had the longest, strangest bout of deja vu I’ve ever had. Twenty minutes, when I knew everything that anyone was going to do or say.

And this:

The tube stopped, in the tunnel.
That was what I thought happened, anyway: I thought the tube had stopped. Everything went very quiet.
And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off. And I was looking at the other passengers and wondering who they really were inside when the train stopped in the tunnel, and everything went very quiet.
And then everything lurched so hard I thought we’d been hit by another train,
And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off, and then the train stopped in the tunnel, and then everything went –
(Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, whispered a voice in the back of my head.)

And finally:

“Who sent the missiles?” I asked. “The USSR? The Iranians?”
“Aliens,” he said.
“You’re kidding?”
“Not as far as we can tell. We’ve been sending out seed-probes for a couple of hundred years now. Looks like when the first missiles landed. It’s taken us a good twenty years to get a retaliatory plan up and running. That’s why we’ve been processing in overdrive. Did it seem like the last decade went pretty fast?”
“Yeah. I suppose.”
“That’s why. We ran it through pretty fast, trying to maintain a common reality while co-processing.”

So much gushing. I’m going to stop now.



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.

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