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Book: Fragile Things

October 12, 2010
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In which — yes! — I enjoy many, many short stories. (a minor miracle)

Again on audiobook, which I think really helped me enjoy the short story format (and also can I just say that listening to audiobooks is helping me ‘read’ far more books and that this makes me really happy?). Read by the author, the incredible Neil Gaiman, this was a VERY enjoyable audiobook. The sort where I didn’t mind a long wait on the freeway as all the other silly drivers tried to make up their minds if they were staying in line or exiting. The sort where I considered listening to the stories when I was weeding, or cleaning, or doing just about anything (I resisted, as I need my carrot to get me out the door in the morning).

Anyway. Fabulous, fabulous. There was only one story which I didn’t finish — The Sunbird — because I wasn’t that interested in the story and because I knew it involved the eating of the bird — or someone or something — and I didn’t feel like hearing the death scene. I am developing a serious phobia against sad/death-related/destructive themes in books, at least particularly when it involves someone or something which really shouldn’t die.

However, aside from that one exception, I listened to all the rest of the stories and liked almost every single one. I didn’t love Strange Little Girls, and I didn’t love the Miss Finch story, and a few of the others were fine but a bit forgettable. But, I absolutely loved, with a big bursting heart full of love for his storytelling style, A Study In Emerald, October In The Chair, Harlequin Valentine, Instructions, The Monarch In The Glen… and quite a few more.

What is it about his storytelling? Well, first of all, he has a perfect reading voice. Wonderful accents, friendly but a bit dark, very cozy. You feel like you are in a warm pub with a mug full of your very favorite hot drink, with a big fire, listening to amazing stories. And the stories — as in all Gaiman stories, they are vaguely familiar until they take a sudden quirky turn, and then you are hooked in and must continue to read (er, listen) to find out what happens, as you can’t predict the storyline at all, and like fairy dust, small delightful details fall out at unexpected moments, keeping you utterly charmed and transported.

I have to say that I think what made a big difference for me in terms of my short-story aversion is that it worked well with driving. I could usually get through at least one story per commute, and so didn’t have to remember from day to day what had previously happened. So I can see the benefit there. I believe I’d tried to read this book before but failed — however, I’m glad that I tried it on audio because it was a grand success. And now I am all Gaiman-obsessed again and must seek out something I haven’t read yet. Which shouldn’t be too difficult, as he is so prolific and has bits and pieces all over the place. Maybe  I will finish the Sandman graphic novels. I think I stopped at #5 or so (got distracted).

I think that, true to form, my two very-most-favorites were A Study In Emerald (a Sherlock Holmes retelling) and Monarch In The Glen (a novella sequel to American Gods, which I adored). Both of these were longer and more involved, and very satisfying. I just like longer stories, that’s all there is to it.

A perfect RIP read, as most of the stories were somewhat dark and perfectly October-appropriate. I strongly recommend this audiobook. I’m very sad that it’s completed.

However, I am now listening to Slaughterhouse Five, by the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whose writing speaks to me deep in my soul. I read this long ago in high school, and I’m thinking I might re-read (listen) to as many Vonnegut novels as I can. His books mend wounds, fill up empty spaces with wisdom and love, and help me remember the many kindred spirits out there in the world. Also, he is so spot-on with his observations of the insanity and utter absurdity of war, and he makes me feel better about my deepest-felt opinions on these sorts of things.

Oh, but back to Gaiman for a minute — this sort of writing, this sort of reader-experience, makes me deeply envious of his talent. There are not many writers whose style I feel actually envious over — I admire many writers, but have no desire to be like any of them (not that I’m a writer, but that’s beside the point). However, Neil Gaiman seems to have one foot firmly planted in some other world and can pull amazing details from this other world at random, and I just love it. To use an overused word, in its most basic definition: he is delight-ful.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 6:43 pm

    I can see the short stories working for a commute.

    Excellent idea.

    I really need to check into audio books for our commute…especially for The Boy. He has a major aversion to reading due to the dyslexia…buy nighttime he is spent and his joy for reading is at an all time low. This would be a great alternative.

    Where do you get your audio books? The library? iTunes?

  2. October 12, 2010 6:55 pm

    Definitely the library. Then you can just copy it to your iTunes — voila!!

  3. October 14, 2010 3:58 am

    You’re like me….Once you find an author you like, all their works get devoured. I totally understand your dislike of reading anything to do with death. I feel the same way — isn’t there enough misery in real life? I read to escape a bit from reality. After my dad died of Alzheimer’s, a co-worker kept giving me books which characters suffering from that ailment. What was she thinking?

    • October 15, 2010 10:44 am

      I know. I am usually fairly immune to absorbing uncomfortable feelings from books, but lately I just can’t take it. Oh well. (PS: so sorry about your father)

  4. October 14, 2010 6:35 am

    James is always looking for audiobooks to read on his drive to work. I will have to tell him about this one and see if we can get it from the library. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much and that audiobooks are making your commute not unpleasant.

    • October 15, 2010 10:44 am

      This was really excellent, and Gaiman’s voice is perfect. I’m sure James will love it!

  5. October 14, 2010 12:31 pm

    ooh i might have to get this one. now seems like the perfect time of year to read more gaiman.

    • October 15, 2010 10:44 am

      I think you would really like it, there are some just perfect stories in this collection.

  6. October 17, 2010 12:55 pm

    Put a big smile on my face reading about your enjoyment of this audio collection. I read it for the first time when it came out, and have listened to parts of the audio book every year since, particularly around this time of year. Neil is an amazing talent when it comes to writing, and then telling, short stories. I would encourage you to give Sunbird another chance at some point. Phoenix stories are about rebirth, after all.

  7. October 23, 2010 7:45 pm

    This is the only short story collection by Gaiman I haven’t read yet. I must do so at some point. I really want to try an audio by him at some point, too.

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