Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Fragile Things : Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman








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The latest book from Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things : Short Fictions and Wonders, collects 32 stories and poems that display the range of this creative writer’s production. Gaiman’s originality and imagination are displayed in this collection, as well as his ability to write in the style of others (Lovecraft, Bradbury), always with his own twist. Here’s an excerpt, all of the poem titled, “”My Life,” pp. 205-7:


“My life? Hell, you don’t want to hear about


   my life. Jesus, my throat is dry. . . .


A drink? Well, since you’re buying, arid it’s a


   hot day, sure. Why not. Just a little one.


Maybe a beer. And a whiskey chaser. lt’s


   good to drink, on a hot day. Only


Problem with drinking is it makes me


   remember. Amid sometimes I don’t want


To remember. I mean, my mom: there was a


  woman. I never knew her as a woman


But I seen photographs of her, before the


   operation. She said I needed a father,


And seeing my own father had dumped her


   after he regained his eyesight. (following


A blow on the head from a Burmese cat. which jumped


   from a penthouse apartment window and fell


Thirty stories, miraculously striking my father in


  exactly the right place to restore his sight,


And then landing uninjured on the sidewalk.


  proving it’s true what they say about


Cats always landing on their feet) claiming he had


  thought he was marrying her twin sister


Who looked completely different, but had, through


   a miracle of’ biology, exactly the same voice


Which was why the judge granted the divorce, closed


   his eyes and even he couldn’t tell them apart.


So my father walked out a free man, and on the


   way from the court he was struck on the head


By detritus falling from the sky; there was folks


   said it was lavatorial waste from a plane


Though chemical examination revealed traces of


   elements unknown to science, and it said


In the papers that the fecal matter contained


   alien proteins, but then it was hushed up.


They took my father’s body away for safekeeping.


   The government gave us a receipt


Though in a week it faded, I guess that it was


   something in the ink, but that’s another story.


So then my mom announced I needed a man


   around the house and it was going to be her,


And she worked a deal with that doctor so when the


   two of’ them won the Underwater Tango contest


He agreed to change her sex for nothing. Growing


   up I called her Dad, and knew none of this.


Nothing else interesting has ever


   happened to me. Another drink?


WeII, just to keep you company maybe, another


   beer, and don’t forget the whiskey,


Hey, make it a double. It isn’t that I drink, but


   it’s a hot day, arid even when you’re


Not a drinking man . . . .You know,


It was just such a day as this my wife dissolved.


   I’d read about the people who blew up,


Spontaneous combustion, that’s the words. But


   Mary-Lou—---that was my wife’s name,


We met the day she came out of her coma,


   seventy years asleep and hadn’t aged a day,


It’s scary what ball-lightning can do. And


   all the people on that submarine,


Like Mary-Lou, they all were froze in time,


   and after we were wed she’d visit them,


Sit by their bedsides, watch them while they


   slept. I drove a truck, back then.


And life was good. She coped well with the missing


   seven decades, and me, I like to think that if


The dishwasher had not been haunted—well,


   possessed, 1 guess, would be more accurate——


She’d still be here today It preyed upon her mind,


   and the only exorcist that we could get


Turned out to be a midget from Utrecht


   and actually not a priest at all,


For all he had a candle, bell, and book. And


   by coincidence, the very day my wife,


All haunted by the washer, deliquesced—went


   liquid in our bed—my truck was stole.


That was when I left the States to travel round the world.


Arid life’s been dull as ditchwater since then.


   Except… but no, my mind is going blank.


My memory’s been swallowed by the heat.


   Another drink? Well, sure. . . .”


There’s much about Gaiman’s work that appeals to teens and young adults. Readers wanting to sample the range of his skills can receive him in small doses on the pages of Fragile Things.


Steve Hopkins, May 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the June 2007 issue of Executive Times


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