Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week in Review (32) and Short Story Sunday

Random Thoughts

Since I am involved in a few read-alongs over the next couple months, there might be multi-purpose posts for the next little while. I don't want to post two times a day because usually means at least one of the posts doesn't get noticed, but if these multi-purpose posts are too much I might have to.

As I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with things lately, I was very excited to find the first two Bone books at the second-hand store. I read them through the library before and now I can reread them with my own copies. I will probably slowly buy the rest of the series unless I can luck into more second-hand. I always found a couple others, but they were later in the series.

Challenge News

I read Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie. This book is about death, so that makes me think it counts for the R.I.P. challenge. Then, after a lot of thinking, I decided that Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier also counts for the challenge. It is actually a dark book more than a light-hearted one. The one that fits the best, though, is The Night Circus. I loved that book!!

Weekly Reads

194. Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (Completed September 5, 2011)
195. Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters Series, Book 2) by Juliet Marillier (Completed September 5, 2011)
196. Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Completed September 8, 2011)
197. Bone - Volume 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith (Completed September 8, 2011)
198. Bone - Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith (Completed September 9, 2011)
199. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Completed September 10, 2011)

Weekly Posts

Group Read - A Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Part 4 & 5

New Additions

Nothing this week...

Nothing this week...

Nothing this week...

The Postmortal by Drew Magary
Leningrad by Anna Reid

Short Story Sunday - Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman - Week 1
In the introduction to Neil Gaiman's short story collection -- a wildly diverse assortment of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy, poetry, and speculative fiction -- he explains the book's title: "Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds' eggs and human hearts and dreams, are fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks."

Noteworthy selections in this undeniably exceptional collection include the Hugo Award winning "A Study in Emerald," which deftly blends Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's late-19th-century England with gruesome Lovecraftian horror; the Locus Award winning "October in the Chair"; an homage to Ray Bradbury that features the months of the year personified; and "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," a tale featuring two oversexed teenagers from an all-boys school in South London who stumble into a party full of what they take to be hot chicks but are in reality alien tourists! Also included are a brilliant American Gods novella ("Monarch of the Glen") and "Strange Little Girls," a series of, well, strange very short stories that first appeared in a Tori Amos tour book.

Like his previous short story collection (1998's critically acclaimed Smoke and Mirrors), Gaiman's Fragile Things is anything but; this is a powerhouse compilation that proves once again that Gaiman is a true master of short fiction. It's fitting that he dedicates this collection to three short story icons -- Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Sheckley. Paul Goat Allen
Stories Read This Week:
'A Study in Emerald'
'The Fairy Reel'
'Octpber in the Chair'

Neil Gaiman is a hit-or-miss author with me. I know lots of people love him, but sometimes he just doesn't work for me at all. I still feel a compulsion, though, to read him. I read his first short story collection Smoke & Mirrors a while back and while there were some stories I wasn't hugely fond of, there were many that I enjoyed. If my library had a copy of this one, I probably would have read it by now. I just kept putting off reading it because other books caught my attention, but after reading a Charles de Lint short story collection with Carl, I decided that I wanted to finally tackle this one and suggested it for R.I.P. VI.

This is not a short story, but is really the introduction to the book. It includes a bonus short story, though, and that was a rather fun idea. I actually enjoyed the introduction because in it he tells the inspiration and reasoning behind every story included in this collection. I enjoyed reading what he thought they were about, how he came to write them, and a bit of insider information. For example, one of the stories in the collection was written as a birthday present for his oldest daughter. These types of facts you would not get from simply reading the stories.

'A Study in Emerald'
In the introduction Gaiman talks extensively about this first story. I believe it is because it won a Hugo in 2004 for Best Short Story. It was included in an anthology where he was asked to write a story where Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft. I am very familiar with Holmes, having read some of his books this year, but this was my first time actually reading anything where I knew it was Lovecraft inspired. I had meant to read Lovecraft last year, but it didn't work out. When you read the actual story you find that Gaiman took a real Holmes story and tweaked it. The title gives that away, of course, as the original is called 'A Study in Scarlet'. I really enjoyed this story!

'The Fairy Reel'
I am not a huge fan of poetry, but in the introduction Gaiman says this poem is fun to read-aloud. So, I waited until I was alone and did read it aloud. I agree, it is fun to read that way. I enjoyed my experience with this one.

'October in the Chair'
This story won the Locus Award for Best Short Story in 2003. In the story, the months of the year are gathered around a camp-fire to tell stories. When it is October's turn, he tells the story of a living boy who has run away and meets a dead boy in a graveyard. They end up playing together and the living boy questions whether he wants to return to his old world and how things were there. In the introduction Gaiman says that this was the 'dry run' for the lead-up to what would be known as The Graveyard Book. That is is easily my favourite Gaiman novel, so I really appreciated this story.

Overall, I enjoyed the first part of this short story collection. I look forward to next weeks reading. I know there will be some stories that I do not love, but there should be enough good ones to balance things out. That is the way of short story collections. If you are joining in for the read-along, or have read these stories in the past, what did you think of them? Is there anyone reading along that this is their first experience with Gaiman? If so, what did you think?


  1. So I have to ask, knowing of your dislike for prologues, do you feel that same way about introductions. Would you have read the introduction if it was not 'assigned' or would you have waited until after you read the rest of the book?

    That question aside, you got the same enjoyment out of the intro as I did because I too am always fascinated by what inspires authors, most particularly with short stories.

    I read Study in Scarlet last year so it was fun not long after that to read A Study in Emerald and it was also fun listening to it this year having that story, and the Sherlock series, in mind. Very clever mash up of the two genres. You should definitely give Lovecraft a try sometime. He writes some good creepy stories.

    I'm so glad you read the poem aloud. It does work much better that way. Listening to Neil read it is a delight.

    October in the Chair really does give you that Graveyard Book vibe, doesn't it? Isn't it interesting to think that at the time of this book's publication he was still in the writing process for The Graveyard Book? A deliciously creepy short story if there ever was one. Disturbing but short of being too disturbing, which is a line Gaiman sometimes crosses, and will in later stories in this collection. My opinion of course.

    Fun to be buddy reading this with you, only with a group of others as well. Glad you suggested it.

  2. I didn't realise until I read Carl's post on his blog that there was a story called Study in Scarlet. In some ways this reminds me of Jasper Fforde in that you don't need to have read all the books he references in order to enjoy his stories but that the more you read the more you see the more you enjoy!

    Will be interested to hear what you think of the Leningrad book.

  3. **Carl: um, introductions are not exactly like prologues, so it really depends on what I am thinking when I go to read the book. I have read Gaiman's intros before and enjoyed them.

    I had actually read A Study in Emerald before. I am not sure where, but somewhere. I didn't know it until I started reading it and it was very familiar. At first I thought it was because I read Sherlock Holmes at the beginning of the year, but no, it was the story.

    Yes, I might reread this collection through audio at some point.

    So far the first 8 stories have been good... I will be curious to see where things go a bit sour for you. I can't read on until I write up a post for the next four stories.

    Fun to be reading this with you, too. As well as Jim Butcher and LOTR! :)

    **Marg: You are just going to have to read some Sherlock Holmes! And, no, even without the book background the story still works well. I have never read Lovecraft, but I really want to.

    I think I will try to read Leningrad in November, but with so much else in mind one never knows what will wind up happening!

  4. I certainly liked A Study in Scarlet and it is a pretty quick read. I'm so glad that I had just happened to read it before the new Sherlock series came out as it was fun to see the parallels of the story with the A Study in Pink episode.

    I'm actually looking as forward to writing about the stories I don't like as I do writing about those that I do. I am also curious to see if I feel any differently about any of the stories this time around than I've felt before. My opinions have changed over time.

  5. **Carl: I haven't seen the Sherlock series. I have heard good things about it, though!

    I will be curious to see what I think of the collection overall. It started off well, so we will just have to see what happens. I look forward to seeing what you see upon rereading it.

  6. The Sherlock series is fantastic. You've got to track it down. It is streaming on Netflix now. And later next year we'll get the next series. Can't wait!

  7. I pretty much enjoyed all four parts to this first bit of the Fragile Things read-along! And, I actually didn't read the entire Introduction because I didn't want to spoil myself with the other stories so I missed out on the bonus story for this round of reviews =) I really love Neil Gaiman's monthly personalities in "October in the Chair" - he just seems to have so much fun with them! And that story about the Runt made me sad at first but ended with me being both creeped out and curious to find out what Donald's next "adventure" was going to be!! Also, I really love "A Study in Emerald", mostly because everytime I re-read it, I seem to find new clues and little nods to the audience that Neil Gaiman slips in there. Love it!


  8. I feel the same way as you about Neil Gaiman, some of his stuff I love - The Graveyard Book - and some I find a bit hit and miss. I did like October in the Chair from this anthology though, and I know there were others I liked that I can't remember now.

  9. Good heavens, dear, but you never cease to amaze me. Wish I could borrow your reading prowess for a few weeks to get through some of these piles of books here. :P

  10. Ha! I just ordered the first Bones book from Heather on Paperback Swap :D Have you read any of them before? This'll be my first. And I really wanna get my hands on The Night Circus!!

  11. **Carl: I think I live in the wrong country to see it on Netflix. I got rid of it because of the limited options compared to the US one.

    **Sharry: I followed the 'rule's and read the introduction. To be honest with the stories spread out like they are I probably won't necessarily remember what he said for every story anyway.

    **Cath: I really enjoy The Graveyard Book. I am thinking about rereading it, but not sure if that will happen. I might have a bit too many commitments...

    **Debi: I don't really know what you are talking about. You are like Wonder Woman! It's too bad you don't read as much as you like, but look at everything you do...

    **Chris: Heather got rid of Bones! That's sad. I am getting them because I want to reread and I read them through the library before... I am in no rush, though.

  12. I loved all four of these, but (as I said in my own post), I have a huge "reader's crush" on Gaiman. I don't know. His imagination seems to be in complete synch with my own. I, like Carl, highly recommend listening to him read "The Fairy Reel" aloud. Of course, I highly recommend listening to him read anything (the phone book?), so maybe you don't want to listen to me :-)!

  13. **Emily: I think I might get the audio version of this book from the library. I keep hearing good things about listening to Gaiman read...

  14. I've often said the same thing about how Gaiman could read me the phone book and I would be happy. And I too have an admitted reader's crush on him.

  15. I'm actually looking forward to disliking stories in this volume because, now that I've read a lot more Gaiman, I think I will have a better idea of why I dislike them in the context of his work -- because I don't always love everything by him but I do appreciate it all in some way.

    Glad to join in with all of you this time!

  16. I dont usually like the short story format- but if anyone's gonna get me to read a book of them, it's Gaimen!

  17. **Carl: I really will have to listen to an audio book read by him.

    **Kristen: I actually am the same. I don't love everything by him either, but I do appreciate everything he has written and I have read. Glad to have you joining in!

    **Zeek: Apparently it is even better if you get him to read to you. :)

  18. Usually not a fan of introductions, I was glad I was able to read through this one and get a glimpse behind the curtain into the man that is Neil Gaiman. I do also think he did some great jobs bringing up some questions during "October in the Chair" about what makes a good story and good storytelling, which are always fun things to consider. Great thoughts on the first section!

    PS: I love the Bones books, as well as the TV show. Pure addiction.

  19. **Chelsea: I am usually not a fan of introductions, either.

    I love Bones the TV show, too, and enjoyed reading through the graphic novels. :)

  20. October in the Chair is one of my favorites from this collection. Also, I agree that Gaiman is an excellent audio book reader and you have to check one of his books out in that format.

  21. **Melissa: I am glad to hear that he is such a good reader. I will have to get around to one of them soon! I believe my library has this book in audio, so I will probably wait a bit and then reread it. :)

  22. I think I really have to get round to buying the audio version of this book! I've heard Gaiman reading some of his other work and it's such a pleasure...

  23. **GeraniumCat: I have never heard Gaiman read anything, so I am very interested in doing so at some point!


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