So despite all that I've said about challenges, I've gone and signed myself up for another one. I've also jumped on the bandwagon, because everybody and her mother is doing Stainless Steel Droppings's Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) VI Challenge. As much as I hate to be a follower, I just can't help it! The RIP challenge emphasizes dark, gothic, supernatural literature. It also has levels designed just for me! I'm committing myself to Peril of the Short Story and Peril on the Screen, so I'll be reading lots of dark short stories (which I was planning to do anyway) and watching lots of creepy movies (ideally while cuddling under a warm blanket with the hubby...you know, for protection). If you like, you can follow my progress over at my Challenges page (just avoid noticing how pathetically I'm doing on all my other challenges).
I've already jump-started the challenge, by joining SSD's group read of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (check out the reading schedule here and other people's reviews here). In the introduction to this short story and poem collection, Gaiman discusses his original conception of the collection and how it changed over time into what it is today. I don't usually like to read these kinds of introductions, but it was actually pretty interesting, and even inspiring. Gaiman claims that "Writing's a lot like cooking. Sometimes the cake won't rise, no matter what you do, and every now and again the cake tastes better than you ever dreamed it would." I love this (and not only because I love cake). Just because something's not what you imagined doesn't mean it's not good, and that's really exciting for an aspiring yet perpetually blocked writer like myself. A lot of the introduction is devoted to a brief introductions for each story, so I saved most of them to read in tandem with the stories themselves. The ones I've read thus far added interesting background information to each story, though some got a bit dull (I don't need to know about every prize). Overall, the introduction is filled with beautiful writing, inspiration, and a touch of humility, and I'm happy that the group read guidelines kept me from skipping it.
So far, the stories do not disappoint. The first, "A Study in Emerald," is, according to Gaiman, a fusion of H.P. Lovercraft and Sherlock Holmes. Though I've never read either, from what I know about them, I see elements of both fused brilliantly together. A line that I especially loved from it describes the queen of England: "She was called Victoria, because she had beaten us in battle, seven hundred years before, and she was called Gloriana, because she was glorious, and she was called the Queen, because the human mouth was not shaped to say her true name" (11). The familiar world is turned upside down and goes through many renderings throughout just this one sentence.
|It made her eyes glow. Apparently.|
The final selection for today is "October in the Chair," a surprising story that finds all of the months around a campfire for a highly structured monthly meeting in which each tells a story (September is a cheater and tries to repeat an old one). The story within the story is of a boy and a ghost, and was a "dry run" (xv) for Gaiman's current (as of the introduction) writing exploit. It is a sweet story encased within a slightly bizarre one. I would love to read more about the months, as Gaiman characterizes them wonderfully.
So that's it for this week! I'm excited to read more of the collection, as it starts off wonderfully and I always mean to read more Gaiman, since he never disappoints. To all participating in the RIP challenge, good luck! Please leave me some short story and movie recommendations. To those of you who are not - why not?! If you need me, I'll be reading all the other reviews that I've been avoiding all morning, for fear that they would taint my own.