This week I read Neil Gaiman's short story collection, Fragile Things. I know, I know. I promise that soon I will run out of Neil Gaiman books to write about, and then maybe someday another writer might get reviewed on here for once. But I can't help it! I'm obsessed! I haven't devoured so much work by one writer in such a short time period since I first discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald eight years ago.
Anyway, I interlibrary-loaned this book as soon as I read that it contained a novella from the American Gods universe. That little fifty-page piece, entitled "The Monarch of the Glen," did not disappoint. I absolutely adore the character of Shadow (someone's in danger of becoming a future character crush, methinks), so I was very happy to spend some more time with him. Mysterious, lost, haunted and good at heart, Shadow faces another bizarre situation and ends up over his head (this time in Scotland). The final few pages are really quite heartbreaking, with Shadow deciding to "go home," back to the America that previously failed him. I can't commend Gaiman's characterization of Shadow enough. He's an absolutely wonderful creation.
The rest of the book was kind of "meh" for me, honestly. I hate to say it, but this might have been my least favorite Neil Gaiman book I've read so far. Obviously, Gaiman's good enough that that still makes this book better than most stuff out there, but as short story collections go, I liked his book Smoke and Mirrors better. Of course, there were a handful of great pieces. I loved the sweet poem "Locks," which is about storytelling and fatherhood. I liked the weird but interesting "October in the Chair" (also largely about the nature of storytelling), and I laughed through "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire." Meanwhile, "Closing Time" and "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch" are genuinely frightening, and "Bitter Grounds" is a really cool piece, even if I don't totally understand it. "The Problem of Susan" is also quite a standout, I think, although my lack of knowledge about the Narnia books definitely made it harder to follow.
Anyway, all in all, a satisfying if not particularly thrilling Neil Gaiman book. I will definitely be haunted by Shadow for awhile now...
Note: Don't you love finding things in books? This book had a ticket stub from the South Shore Line. For those of you who don't know, the South Shore Line is a train service that runs from South Bend, Indiana, to Chicago. I found the ticket nestled in the pages of "The Monarch of the Glen." I just love the idea of someone having Shadow for company on the train, especially since the end of the story takes place on a train. Cool beans.