Sunday, 23 October 2011

Fragile Things group read - week 7

Only one more week to go, we're on week 7 of the Fragile Things group read for RIP VI - what am I going to do when we finish talking about these stories? Although I had less time to discuss last week's reading, sadly, although I managed to check out everyone's posts in the end, I think. There seemed to be quite a consensus that last week's stories were much more successful, with all of them being tightly written except maybe the last (and even with that one, which some of us were more doubtful about, Carl said that it was better for listening to).

"In the End"
Is this what would be necessary for a return to innocence? I wondered at the taking away of the animals' names, which at first  seemed harsh, but of course, it was what gave man dominion over them - it's not taking anything away, it's relieving them of the burden that we imposed on them. As someone who's been known to say that the world would be a better place if there weren't any humans in it, I guess I have to agree with Gaiman's version of the End. Frankly, I'd like to see humans redeem themselves without recourse to any god, but that would have been harder to make story-shaped.

A nice, straightforward, old-fashioned, well-told story. If you've seen The Matrix (and I guess most people have) it resonates, of course, but it's nice to have an associated story with a British setting - it kind of adds to the reality, somehow. There's Keanu Reeves doing his ninja stuff, and a 7-foot-tall British nerd running a computer shop on Tottenham Court Road...I wonder which one it is, and whether I've shopped there? I really, really hate it when the tube stops outside the station like that. it kind of reminded me of an old William Gibson story called "The Gernsback Continuum", though it's so long ago I read it that I've no idea whether it's really justified or not, except that it deals with alternative realities - but, as I say, it felt like 60s scifi, somehow (which the Gibson story did too, although it heralded something new and wonderful).

"Pages From a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky"
This title may, or may not, refer to one of the oldest science fiction novels of all, James De Mille's A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, which was published in 1888. But, as I said last week, Gaiman reminds me of a lot of things - we seem to carry around a lot of the same cultural baggage and, listening to him talk, it's clear that his knowledge of the subject is extensive.

I tried to be too clever with this story - I started looking for a reference to red in every section, which I thought might be the kind of conceit Gaiman would go for. But I lucked out around the fifth section and had to start over, to gradually discover that Scarlet was possibly a ghost, but at any rate something unattainable, which is why she could always stay ahead even though she was walking...and, of course, it wasn't until the end that I saw it was another Mobius story.

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties"
I don't really have a lot to say about this one. It feels as if it starts out being drawn from real memory, and then it turns into something else. It's a good story, it's nicely done, it's very good on that sort of tremulous anticipation about getting close to someone of the opposite sex in dark surroundings that characterises one's early teenage years; I liked the idea behind it and the contrast with the nicely prosaic title - maybe I was just too tired when I was reading it. Maybe it's just a perfectly good story that I don't have anything more to say about.


  1. Yes, naming the animals made us think we had dominion over them, so taking away their names puts us on equal footing. With his Jewish background, Gaiman would also know that the Hebrews were not to name God, so the animals can also be seen as sacred. I love that. Love your comments on Goliath. I, too, liked the English story. That aspect of it brought Nick Hornby to mind.

  2. Ooh, I love the nicety of the difference, Emily - "made us think we had dominion" as opposed to my "gave man dominion". You're absolutely right, of course - and it's even more evidence of the hubris of humanity!

    It's very satisfying - to me at least - that this is another example of a story which looks a slight thing, a near- throw-away, at first glance, but if you pay it attention you see more and more in it. Gaiman makes it look easy, and sometimes even does himself disservice, because there's not much that's redundant in his writing.

  3. I love that you had a local connection with "Goliath" — I didn't have that sense of reality with the train stopping and all, it was just part of the story to me. I'm always interested to see how personal experiences and books read influence how we read these stories!

  4. Oddly enough, I liked "In the End" more than the actual story of Genesis...

  5. I haven't got around to discussing these stories yet, so I am dragging things out... I was going to today, but then I did a silly meme instead