Sunday, 2 October 2011

RIP VI: Fragile Things group read - week 4

Last week the reactions to "Keepsakes and Treasures" varied widely, with some people absolutely loathing the story because it was really very nasty and perverse while others agreed that the subject matter was unpleasant but thought that it worked as a story. Some really thoughtful posts provoked an excellent discussion, not just of this story but of the very unsettling "Other People", and about whether the fantasy elements really added to "Bitter Grounds", or whether it would have worked better without them.

I suspect that this week's responses will be more positive - I certainly enjoyed our reading, and am dying to know what everyone else thought.

"Good Boys Deserve Favour"
I don't really have much to say about this one - quite a nice insight into the workings of a young boy's mind, all that sitting in a music room with a book and not practising (that must be why my school had a glass panel in the door of the practice room!), and I liked the explanation about the double bass really being a bass viol, which is why it has such wonderful sonority...not new, but Gaiman's so good at introducing those little details which enrich his stories. In similar fashion, I like to know that it was inspired by a sculpture.

"Strange Little Girls"
Very short stories have rather taken off since the advent of Twitter and, by those standards, the stories here are quite epic! I like "Heart of Gold" - Mobius again, and rather clever. "Bonnie's Mother" and "Monday's Child" compress a huge amount of narrative into a tiny space - the latter reminded me of Gus van Sant's film Elephant which took 81 minutes to convey the same message (admittedly extremely effectively!).

"Harlequin Valentine"
 Alas, poor Harlequin, to have the tables so neatly turned on him. But the harlequinade is a story that is constantly remade - the commedia dell'arte has been with us for hundreds of years (and I doubt if it sprang new-made into classical theatre where its roots lie) and transformation is part of the story. This is another that could very easily belong in the American Gods world. And on Etsy I found a Lisa Snellings carousel rabbit that I lost my heart to.
"The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch"
Grumble, grumble, grumble, I had to buy a copy of Smoke and Mirrors to read this, because of the differences between the US and UK editions of Fragile Things, but then I found that S&M (oh boy, only just noticed that!) contains possibly my favourite Gaiman poem, "Reading the Entrails", especially as I am so caught up in reading the stories and our discussion that I couldn't bear to miss one. Anyway, to "Miss Finch" - if this turned out to be the only story I liked in S&M it would have been worth the purchase - what a wonderful piece of writing! For a start, there's a sort of companionableness about it, you really feel as if Neil is telling it directly to you. The inclusion of two real friends adds to the effect - perhaps not so much Jane, as she's less-known, but here in the UK Jonathan Ross is more famous than Gaiman, a person liked or loathed (depending to some extent on your sense of humour), an instantly recognisable face and (undisguisable) voice. Miss Finch's continual lecturing is funny and plausible (I know people who would never eat sushi), as is her determination not to enjoy herself. The cavernous spaces where the circus takes place are superbly evoked (indeed, such a setting was used for a scary circus performance in an episode of Sherlock quite recently - and I saw the Cirque du Soleil myself at Battersea Power Station, which perversely I found much more satisfying than the alternative location of the Albert Hall). I'd love to hear Neil read this one aloud, and if my dad, who genuinely did run away to join the circus as a boy, had still been alive, I'd have given him it to read. I'm not sure that we are ever going to get Kristen m's "bright and beautiful" from Gaiman, but here we got close to perfection. Didn't we?


  1. I enjoyed the stories more this week than last week. I will get around to writing my post a bit later today!

  2. Kailana, I shall come and visit when you do :-)

  3. I tried to leave a silly comment (wordpress ate it) on another blog to say that I was sitting in a hotel in London with the windows open, listening out for Miss Finch and the sabre-tooths, and I got to wondering of Gaiman ever lived in one of those cities which have zoos close by residential areas. I know people in one part of Edniburgh, sitting in their Victorian terraces, can sometimes hear wolves howling or lions roaring at night, and I've always thought that must be the strangest thing!

  4. Smoke & Mirrors keeps popping up on Good Reads as a recommendation for me. Looks like I will have to check it out. A poem called Reading the Entrails sounds interesting.