Monday, October 10, 2011

Fragile Things ~ Neil Gaiman, Week Five

It's Monday and that means I'm a little late for my weekly Fragile Things post in honor of the RIP VI group read, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  If you missed my last post, here it is, and here's a link to the posts by the rest of the group.

This week's readings were two poems and two stories.  The first selection was "Locks," a poem about a man telling his daughter the story of Goldilocks who, apparently, was originally an old lady.  This poem was sweet and I really loved this bit:

"There was a little girl, called Goldilocks,
for her hair was long and golden,
and she was walking in the Wood and she saw --"


"-- cows."  You say it with certainty... (178)

It's such a cute moment, in which a small child combines her own experiences with a familiar story in an attempt to make sense of both.  In the poem, Gaiman demonstrates the relationship between a father and his child and a man and his story, combining them into one.  You can feel the love that Gaiman has for his own daughter behind his words.  A lovely start to the week...

...which it seemed, at first, would continue into the next selection.  The first story was "The Problem of Susan," which is about, apparently, the problematic way that Susan is disposed of in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.  Apparently she doesn't get to go to Paradise because she likes lipstick?  I haven't read the series, though I always mean to, so I wasn't 100% clear on this but anywho.  I really liked how the story began: it is told from the waking and dreaming perspectives of two women, a retired professor of children's literature and a journalist writing an article on her.  The journalist is haunted by how Susan is denied Paradise when her family (or other kids? not sure) dies in a train wreck, a fictional horror that the professor lived.  Susan can't stop the obsessive momentum that sends her headlong into this topic, and the professor responds with her own experiences of identified the mangled remains of her family, until finally she asks the journalist to leave.  I liked the back and forth and how the professor slowly melts into Narnia as her body dies, but then suddenly the journalist goes back into a Narnia dream in which Aslan the lion and the White Witch consume the four children and then engage in cunnilungus, to which I said W. T. F.  I didn't have a problem with the purposeful sex in "Keepsakes and Treasures," which many other disliked, by this sex just seemed gratuitous and to have no place in the story.  Gaiman says in his introduction that he wrote this story after a long illness - maybe this was some weird dream he had while sick?  I have no idea, but its purpose in this story is baffling to me and ruined something that I was really enjoying.  I do now, however, want to read Narnia even more than before, but I don't thank Gaiman for that.

Up next was poem #2, "Instuctions," which, as Gaiman tells us in his introduction, is a set of instructions for navigating a fairytale.  It featured some stories in this collection, like the twelve months telling stories and the door with the imp on it.  It kind of suggests a navigable fairy tale world which was interesting but fell a little short for me.  I think it would have been more compelling if it had intentionally included every story in the collection and had appeared either at the beginning or end.  The middle of the collection seemed like an odd spot for it.

Finally, there was "How Do You Think It Feels?" a thoroughly non-fantasy story about a man who cheats on his wife and is fully willing to leave both her and their twin daughters for a younger woman who gets bored of him as soon as he decides to commit to her.  Ho-hum.  The one bit I notably enjoyed was when he talks about the differences between his daughters and you can tell how well he knows and loves them (flashback to "Locks") - but apparently not enough to stay with them.  In the end, he gets back with the now-older younger lady for one last night, and then she vanishes afterwards and he decides that he will be fine without her.  It wasn't a bad story, just not particularly interesting or compelling, particularly as part of this collection.

So it was another underwhelming week, but I'll stick with it - only three more weeks to go.  I've also been reading some stories by H.P. Lovecraft which are so freaking good.  I plan to write about some of them later this week but let me just say now - I can see where Gaiman gets his inspiration but at least in terms of short stories, he does not live up to his master.  Lovecraft has me picturing monsters under the bed.

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