Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fragile Things Readalong - Week 1

Over the next 8 weeks a group of participants in RIP VI are also going to be participating in a couple of readalongs in conjunction with the challenge. The first of these readalongs to get started is Fragile Things, a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman.

The idea is that over the course of the 8 weeks each participant will read four of the short stories/poems and comment on them accordingly. Below are my thoughts on this week's reads.

Introduction - I must confess that as I saw the list of items to be read I was a little perplexed! I do love reading where the inspiration for particular stories came from, so from this perspective I was happy to be reading it, but before you actually read the stories didn't really feel right! It was a lovely surprise then to find that hidden inside the introduction is a story - The Mapmaker. I have read a couple of Neil Gaiman books before (not nearly enough though) but no short stories. I have also heard him speak on podcast interviews etc, so in the story I could clearly hear his voice as though he was reading to us.

In the Introduction there is quite a lot of name-dropping. To be fair though, if I happened to end up in a room with Neil Gaiman at some point in time I am pretty sure I would tell anyone who listens! Of the stories that we read this week, I really liked the way he described that the story October in the Chair came about.

I will be sure to be revisiting the intro as we read through the book!

Having said that it felt a bit odd, I think having read the introduction actually gave me more of a clue as to what I was looking for in

A Study in Emerald -Whilst I am familiar with Sherlock Holmes in a pop culture reference kind of way, I really haven't read anything from HP Lovecraft. These two different styles provided inspiration for this story which features the investigation of a prince who is one of the favourite nephews of Queen Victoria who....well, I don't think I should say much more. I really liked that the narrative travelled forward in what seemed like a very straight forward linear fashion and then, wham, the story was changed and then again at the end!

The Fairy Reel - I read across a lot of genres but poetry is one of the ones that I do neglect! I read this three times and can't decide if I didn't like it because it isn't that great a poem, or if I just don't get it because I am not a poetry read. Given that it is written by Neil Gaiman and read by, well, me, I think it is only fair to go with me being the one to blame in this scenario!

October in the Chair - Of the reading for this week, this is my favourite story! I have long been a fan of the story within a story concept, but I am not sure that I would have thought that it was possible to have two fully realised stories in a short story like this. The story starts with the months of the year coming together for what appears to be a semi-regular meeting, each personified with strong personality traits and identities. There are procedures to be followed (some of the months are more concerned with the importance of these than others) with each story expected to tell the others a story that they haven't heard before. The nested story is of a young boy who is known as Runt in his family and who decides to run away and ends up in the local graveyard. There are clear correlations between this nested part of the story and the story that Gaiman gave us in The Graveyard Book, and he acknowledges that this story was written with that then future book in mind.

There is a Mr Linky over at Stainless Steel Droppings where you can find links to other thoughts about these four books. Come back this time next week for discussion of four more stories from this collection.


  1. I am not sure that I exactly liked what the poem was saying, but I enjoyed reading it aloud... I don't do a lot of poetry either...

  2. Yes! Read the poem aloud — the rhythm of it is so interesting and you get a new appreciation of how Gaiman placed various words within the poem.

  3. I too suggest reading The Fairy Reel aloud. Actually if you search You Tube you can find a couple of very poor videos with Neil reading the poem. I have the audio book and he reads it so interestingly that regardless of your original thoughts you will find yourself appreciating the rhythm of it and his skill with it because of that.

    I wouldn't necessarily take the blame yourself. As I wrote I am 50/50 Gaiman's poetry. I usually love it or don't like it at all, there is rarely any in between. I think more than anything it is subject matter that makes me like or not like his poems.

    I am always fascinated by people's feelings about introductions. I love reading them, except in classics as they generally reveal waaay too much about the stories. Gaiman does name drop, and yet I don't believe he name drops at all, if that makes sense. I certainly think he travels in an interesting circle and so that naturally comes out in his conversations.

    I like that both stories in October in the Chair work well by themselves and also worked really well together. Loved the personalities of the month, especially February. He cracked me up. I know people like that.

    Great to have you taking part in this and look forward to more conversation about these stories.

  4. I actually had to go back through the intro to read "The Mapmaker," because I didn't expect it to be there and thought I'd read the intro to each story when I read the story itself. Oh, how very wrong I was!

  5. I have not read much Gaiman at all, actually, and would have been really thrilled to have read this to get a better feel for him and his work. I am glad that this read was interesting and different for you!

  6. Zibilee, I am sure that it isn't too late if you want to join in at some point during the readalong over the next 8 weeks.

    Bookswithoutanypictures, I do remember thinking that this was a lot of information to have in an introduction. I got to the end and looked at the index and though....oooohhh. A story in the intro!

    Carl, I tend to go back and read introductions because I have had read a few too many where they actually told too much about the book that was being introduced!

    Alison and Kailana, if I find myself at home alone at some point I will try and read it aloud.

  7. I love the "October in the Chair" story! I love how Neil Gaiman portrays all the idiosyncrasies of the I can't imagine them any other way! And October's story was so darn creepy at the end...I really did not want to know what was in that farmhouse!


  8. I'm not a huge poetry reader, either, but I loved The Faerie Reel, perhaps because I'm a huge fan of Faeire? I, like, you liked October in the Chair best. A great story, and it was fun to see how The Graveyard Book got its start.

  9. I also didn't like the poem very much. I'm glad to know I wasn't alone. I read it more than once, trying to see if I was missing something. Maybe I should have read it aloud!

    And October in the Chair was just wonderful. I don't think I liked it as much three years ago but now I think it's one of his best.

  10. Damn it. Another one to add to the list :)

  11. Sean, have you read any Gaiman short stories?

    Kristen, I am glad it wasn't just me!

    Emily, The Graveyard Book is probably my favourite Gaiman (so far) so yes, it was great to see where it came from.

    Sharr, there was definitely a sense of impending doom wasn't there!

  12. Have only read American Gods and Good Omen's.