I didn’t make it to Book Club this month, and with the break we had over Christmas it’s been a while since the last proper post. I regret not being able to go because we have been trying something a bit different this time – reading a collection of short stories rather than a novel. This was to allow people who couldn’t read the whole book in time for the meeting to still be able to take part in the discussion.
I read all but one of the stories in the Neil Gaiman collection Fragile Things (the last one is still to go), and over all I would give the book 4 stars. This is only because there were one or two of the stories I didn’t enjoy in comparison to the rest of them. But on the whole I really liked the style of writing; quite dreamlike and obscure, with many of the main characters taking on the role of storyteller in their own right as writers, journalists, or recording episodes of their lives via a diary. My favourites were:
- Bitter Grounds, in which a man who is very troubled for unknown reasons unwittingly steals the identity of a travelling anthropology professor
- October in the Chair, in which the months of the year take turns to tell stories, with this particular offering being about one dead boy and one living
- Feeders and Eaters, in which the main character’s story is pushed to one side when he meets an old acquaintance who has a particular problem with a hungry young (?) lady
I also like the way Gaiman introduced the collection by describing the inspiration behind each of the stories: short stories, I find, are distinctive and unique in their inspiration, and an idea can be sparked by so many different things that make you instinctively know that the story you want to write will be a short snippet, not an epic tome. Sometimes he was commissioned to write a story; sometimes he was inspired by real events or people, sometimes boredom on a long flight or a long held problem with the Problem of Susan (another story I particularly liked) in The Chronicles of Narnia led to a spark of inspiration. And it, in turn, has inspired me to continue with my own short stories…