Fragile Things

Fragile Things

by Neil Gaiman

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I will talk about the book because it was lovely but I also want to talk about an earlier work written by Gaiman. I want to talk about The Sandman, which is a comic book.

No, come back. If I could overcome my anti comic book snobbery, so can you. And it will be really worth it.

The Sandman isn’t new — it was first published in the early 90’s — and it isn’t a novel in the strictest sense of the word, but it’s one of the finest things I’ve ever read. In retrospect it makes complete sense for a fantasist like Gaiman to blow out the bounds of the printed page and explore new media.

The Sandman tells the story — creates the modern mythology — of a family of demi-gods called The Endless — among them Despair, Desire, Delirium, the adorably perky goth-cheerleader Death, and their sometime leader Dream, also known as the Sandman. I won’t attempt to run down the many intertwined plots, only say the artwork goes from what you would expect from a comic book to panels you’d be proud to hang on the wall. The covers alone are worth the price of the books. The stories are moving, sometimes scary, sometimes tragic, and Dream is totally hot, in a depressed and mopey kind of way. The themes are adult, the fantasy is dark, and when it was released it was revolutionary. There is a signed copy of one of the books in my living room, one of my proudest possessions.

So anytime a Neil Gaiman book &#151 or anything — comes out, I’m pretty excited. (The jury is still out on the movie adaptation of his fairy tale Stardust, with that sourpuss Clare Danes playing the enchanted fallen star.)

Fragile Things is a collection of short stories and poems (he got me to read comic books and poetry? What kind of evil genius is this guy?) with introductions from the author that were as much fun as the fiction itself. I got all worked up by the first story, A Study in Emerald, which combines the universe of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. (It was awesome! Ia! Ia!) Instructions is a sort of poetic laundry list of what to do if you find yourself inside a fairy tale (“Inside (the castle) are three princesses. Do not trust the youngest.”) which I am printing out and keeping in my purse alongside my How to Tell if you Are Possessed by Demons quiz, because you just can’t be too careful. Its clear Gaiman was thinking a lot about the nature of story telling and the fragility of truth. He says over and over, in the voice of many protagonists: This is a true story, This really happened. He says the same thing in at least one introduction. And he’s the kind of storyteller you believe, whether it’s the months of the year sitting around talking (October in the Chair) a hair-raising ghost story (Closing Time, this is a true story) or a trip to Hell (Other People). You come away from this collection realizing that the human heart is fragile, but also resilient — and delicious!

Fragile Things and The Sandman series are by Neil Gaiman.


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