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review 2019-06-14 23:00
Fragile Things ★★☆☆☆
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman

This took forever to finish over multiple tries, which pretty much sums up how engaged I was with this book. I love Neil Gaiman's stories, but nearly every story in this collection left me thinking either, "okay that was different" or "wtf did I just read?". They mostly felt like the kind of flash fiction where you are exposed to some vignette disconnected from a larger story, with no sense of what that larger story might be. I really dislike flash fiction.

 

Paperback, now removed from my bookshelf and added to the box of books to be donated to the library.

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text 2018-10-23 15:10
Fragile Things - progress 85/360pg
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman

I think I might have a little bit of a bookish hangover after binge-reading my way through my entire Halloween Bingo card. I'm having trouble settling in to my first non-bingo books. But it might be this book. I normally am enchanted by Neil Gaiman, but I've been picking this book up and putting it down again since August. I'm starting to think that short stories are just not one of his many talents. 

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review 2018-02-18 15:19
Thought-provoking, Challenging, Uncomfortably Good
These fragile things - Jane Davis

Having recently enjoyed ‘A Funeral for an Owl’ by indie author Jane Davis (see review dated 2 Jan 2018), I dived further into her back catalogue and found this book (first published in 2012) and I’m delighted to report that the author’s accessible writing style again made for a really enjoyable read.

 

In particular, Davis does have a wonderful knack for developing interesting teenage characters and in this offering the central protagonist (Judy Jones) is recovering from a deliberately mundane, yet life-changing incident, in which a wall collapses on her. In fact her survival is positively miraculous. Still, the wall is a very effective metaphor for other constructs around self-image, relationships, indeed life and the book explores how susceptible to collapse these things can also be when buffeted by external, or self-made pressures. The stress-test that the human experience places on individuals, families and communities can be profound and the mechanisms created to defend one’s well-being can be elaborate, or at times blindingly simple. Though not meant to be a commentary on faith, Davis does at least invite the question whether spiritual faith and/or faith in each other aids the character’s ability to cope and navigate the unexpected, or whether the key is our shared humanity and the capacity for random acts of kindness.

 

For those readers with children, especially teenagers, there are interesting moments for reflection at the shifting nature of the parental relationship, but also a potentially visceral empathy with Judy’s parents and the impact of the kind of news for which we all live in a state of dread. But, if subsequently the child then purports to experience visions, how does one react to that?

 

At its core the book focuses on the experience of loss – of health, identity, belonging, an anticipated future - and the attendant bereavement. The interlacing of aspects of the characters’ individual and collective journeys is cleverly handled by the author, though for me the slightly bizarre departure from the rails of Elaine Jones (Judy’s Mum) was an unnecessary distraction. Yet, all-in-all a fascinating and thoughtful novel, which does emphasize the potential corrosion of loneliness, however it may be imposed.

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text 2017-01-25 12:16
7 Great Short Fiction Collections
Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison
The Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King
Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman
Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly
Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman
20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden

I am a big short fiction reader, and have always been. I love being able to hop in, geta full experience, and move on in a single sitting. Or take a long, hot bath and read an entire novella. That kind of thing.

These are all single author collections, as opposed to multi-author anthologies. I prefer collections, in general, because, while they may vary wildly in terms of content and quality, they tend to be more cohesive, less jarring. Not to say there aren't some amazing anthos (this is what foreshadowing looks like)...

You'll also notice that these are mostly horror. I feel horror is often best at shorter lengths, giving short, sharp shocks before disbelief can set in. Novellas please me because you have just enough space to flesh out a few characters and give your story depth, but not enough to wander too far off  course.

Anyway, a few faves...

 

1. Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison  Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison  

 

    My first Ellison, recommended by Stephen King in Danse Macabre. Contains some of his best, weirdest works, but any Ellison is worth picking up. Still, this has a story about a nice Jewish boy whose dead mom is still trying to run his life. For his own good, of course. How can you resist?

 

2. Different Seasons - Stephen King  Different Seasons - Stephen King  

 

    Four novellas, all amazing. Yes, my favorite is "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," but"The Breathing Method" is a close second. I love club stories, and this is one of King's rare forays into that sub-genre. 

This is, to my  mind, King's most consistent collection. All of the others have at least one dud. Not this one. There's a reason three of these four tales have been made into great movies.

 

3. Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant  Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant  

 

    Another one highly recommended by King (he wrote the intro), and another that introduced me to one of my favorite authors. One  of the masters of "quiet horror," Grant wasn't much one for gore, preferring to imply some truly terrifying things. Dark and disturbing, with a few weird turns here and there.

 

4. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman  Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman  

 

    I love almost everything I've read of Gaiman's, but this is my favorite of his collections. Not much more to say about it, really, it's just great.

 

5. Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly  Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly  

 

    Read this last year, and loved it. Everything from literary fantasy to Ligotti-esque horror to true-life hauntings, all in one beautifully written package. Still need to read more Connolly.

 

6. Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman  Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman  

 

    All of the Silver John stories in one place. One of my favorite series characters, John is an itinerant balladeer who confronts various bizarre happenings during his wanderings through Appalachia. There's nothing quite like this out there.

 

7. 20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden  20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden  

 

    If this only had the title story and "Pop Art," it would still make the list, but there's so much more, too. Those two are sweet and sad, but the rest gets pretty damn dark while still keeping a bit of wonder.

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review 2016-10-31 06:40
Fragile Things, Neil Gaiman
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman

As with previous collections of short pieces by Gaiman, I found this extremely variable in quality: Anything referred to as "poetry" is execrable, as are all the "stories" that are extremely short and fail to follow any normal narrative structure. On the other hand, the pieces that follow some kind of conventional method are all at least OK and in some cases delightful.

 

Stand-out entries are A Study in Emerald and How to Talk to Girls at Parties.

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