Carl's group read of Fragile Things last week, which was a disappointment to me, but two weeks away from home made it difficult. And my reading time this week has been a little curtailed. How dare work interfere with the important things in life, like talking with friends about books?
On to the stories:
These days my sympathy's with Father Bear: oh yes, I do get that, and I love the way the double meaning of locks comes into play there. Goldilocks has never been a favourite story, but I like it better for this poem, that articulates our wishes as parents to protect our children early on, by the telling of stories and later, by wishing that they could learn from our mistakes, though there's also the over-protectiveness of "lock up your daughters", too - I've commented before on how good Gaiman can be at getting a lot into a small space.
"The Problem of Susan"
We know that C.S. Lewis wasn't at all comfortable with women and, indeed, probably disliked them for the most part. But his dismissal of Susan in The Last Battle seems out of all proportion, a petulant expression of hatred for all adult women, a statement that there wouldn't be any of them in his heaven, thank you very much! Since he portrays women pretty misogynistically in his adult fiction, I don't think I'm going out on a limb here (they are just about admissible if deferring absolutely to their husbands, but otherwise they are she-devils). So I'm glad that Gaiman set out to write something that would address the awfulness of what was done to Susan, left alone without her family and very unlikely to feel that a new lipstick was consolation for her loss. And there's something about the nastiness of the Narnia sections that fits with the nastiness of Lewis ridding himself of the nubile, no-longer-innocent (in his terms) Susan, but it's for people with stronger stomachs than me. I don't like it. But maybe I don't like it because Narnia is part of my innocent childhood and I don't want to be made to see the worm in the apple.
"How Do You Think It Feels?"
In the introduction to Smoke and Mirrors Gaiman says he was feeling rather blank when he wrote this story. Right. For the first time, I didn't read the whole thing but skimmed to the end. Okay, I'm a prude, but I don't want to read about sex. This reminds me (she says, changing the subject hurriedly) of when I got to know an author (whom I'd invited to speak at a conference) and his then girlfriend. The author, enjoying a spring break in England when his corner of the Atlantic seaboard was still huddled behind icebergs, very kindly gave me a copy of his latest crime novel. All I could think when I read it was, if he can imagine this sort of thing, I wouldn't want to be his girlfriend!
Oh, what a relief, I love this. All the fairytale pieces rolled up into one perfect whole. It should have been in the possession of every one of the characters in Grimm's Household Tales, required reading. It brings back so many treasured images, and there is something about the patient tone that meshes perfectly with all the wise old men and women in the stories, who would tell you, if only you had the inclination to hear. Wish I had the audio-book!
As ever, I'm eager to know what other people thought, especially about "The Problem of Susan".