Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, Read-a-Long Post One


Oh goodness me, where to even begin with the first post on Neil Gaiman’s wonderful short story collection Fragile Things . For the first installment of Carl V’s read-a-long (part of the wonderful R.I.P Challenge VI) we read the introduction as well as “A Study in Emerald”, “The Fairy Reel”, and “October in the Chair”.


I have to say that I was initially nervous to be including the introduction, as I’m not usually a big reader of introductions, especially in short story collections. In my experience, they’re usually either vague listings of various awards won, or spoiler-filled gabfests that keep me from actually having to read the story. However, with this story collection I found them to be that way only occasionally. Mostly I loved having the insight in to what prompted Gaiman to write what he did when he did, and as an aspiring writer, I find it extra inspirational to hear the authors I admire discussing their own writing processes. I’ll probably go back and read the different introductions for each story as they come up, though, as reading them all at once did cause them to become a bit jumbled in my mind.

“A Study in Emerald”

This might have been the story I liked least, due entirely to my lack of familiarity with either H.P. Lovecraft or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. While I do think that Gaiman did a fantastic job imitating what I always imagined Sherlock Holmes’ voice to be, I just didn’t have enough background knowledge to fully appreciate what Gaiman was trying to do. Interesting enough, both A Study in Scarlet and a book of Lovecraft short stories were in my library loot this past week, so I’m planning on reevaluating this story when I’ve finished both of those!

“The Fairy Reel”

This poem was short but still took me a few read-throughs to fully appreciate. Once I really understood what was happening, however, it became my favorite reading from this section of the collection. Not only was it slightly haunting and macabre, it dealt with a concept that I find especially intriguing – the world of the fairy, existing at the same time alongside and yet detached from our own. Gaiman, I felt, captured this in a way I have yet to see equalled.

“October in the Chair”

I have mixed feelings about this story, and the complicated thing is that neither feeling is bad. I loves both parts of this frame tale. The idea of physical embodiments of the months, as well as the way Gaiman creates those embodiments hinted at a delicious world I wanted to lose myself in it for much, much longer. There is also the inner tale that plays with the themes of the ignored child and what gives horror it’s impact. I can see the early work that made it’s way into Gaiman’s later novel The Graveyard Book , that Gaiman says in the introduction he was working on at the time. The parallels between Bod, Dearly, and Runt are palpable from the moment the story begins. However, as great and scary as the inner story is, my problem with the story as a whole is that I felt short-changed in the part of the story I loved the most, which is the relationship between the seasons, as well as the way the embody themselves. I wanted more – way more – of that!

Well, there you have it! My first contribution on the first four stories (well, three technically) of Fragile Things . He next post will be up September 18th and will cover “The Hidden Chamber”, “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desires”, “The Flints of Memory Lane”, and “Closing Time”! I should also be back later this week with another Library Loot vlog and my thoughts in Stephen King’s The Shining . Until then, happy reading!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anna D.
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 01:44:29

    Every time I’ve seen the title of the Gaiman’s short story “Closing Time,” this song ( gets stuck in my head.

    But anyway, I definitely agree about the seasons. I think someone else mentioned in their blog how it’d be interesting to have a collection of each of their stories in one book, and I think that sounds like a marvelous idea.


  2. Carl V.
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 19:20:57

    Wonderful to have you joining in the discussion with us.

    Yes, A Study in Emerald, while a good story in and of itself, blossoms with some Doyle and Lovecraft familiarity. The twists and the nods to various parts of each mythology are what makes this a stand out story. You’ll have to share your thoughts once you’ve read some of the other work and have a chance to revisit this.

    I think you are the first who has liked the poem best, and that makes me smile. The poems included in this book are great. I would like them regardless of who authored them, but it is extra special that they belong to Neil and are really fun in the audio version when he reads them.

    I suspect Gaiman wrote the Runt/Dearly section first and knew it wasn’t a complete story and so worked the story of the months around it. I would love to see a whole collection where the months sit around telling stories. Doubt we’ll ever get that, but it is fun to dream.

    I will be interested in talking about and seeing everyone’s reactions to “Closing Time” which utilizes the same story telling structure as “October in the Chair”. It will be fun to compare and contrast those stories.


  3. Trackback: The R.I.P. VI Challenge: A Wrap-Up « Book Maven’s Blog

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