Thursday, June 02, 2011

On Things Fragile and Eternal

I am hardly what one would call a Neil Gaiman connoisseur. I don't think I've read any of the collections of Sandman comic books (graphic novel sounds consummately pretentious), and if I have I'm fairly sure I haven't read them all the way through; I think I've only read the second Death miniseries in its entirety, and I haven't read any of his novels.

I have read Stardust, and was disappointed to find out that it wasn't a comic book but rather a heavily-illustrated novel, and his only two works (so far) for Marvel Comics, the Marvel: 1602 hardcover, and his seven-issue Eternals miniseries, the latter of which I doggedly collected in individual issue format for nine months on account not only of Gaiman's intriguing writing but also on John Romita Jr.'s sterling artwork. I enjoyed Stardust but actually liked Matthew Vaughn's film adaptation nine years later even more. I liked 1602 for its novelty and decidedly different take on the Marvel Universe. Finally, I liked The Eternals too but found it seriously flawed, largely on account of the fact that from the very beginning it was designed to whet readers' appetites for the adventures of the Eternals set in the Marvel Universe more than it was to tell its own, complete story. Left to his own devices, Gaiman could have given so much more than he did, even though what he came up with was already quite formidable.

Now that I'm reading Fragile Things, though, I'm coming to see whole new side of Gaiman's work, one I barely glimpsed in the prose of Stardust, which has not only increased my already considerable respect for him as a writer but has whetted my appetite for more of his work. I won't give a blow-by-blow review of the short stories contained in the book, but I will say that I enjoy the voices Gaiman gives to his characters, and the worlds he takes me to, some of which may actually exist in my own. He's not much one for the "twist ending" though there are a few of them in the stories, particularly the ghost stories, but the charm is more in how he takes me to the point where he turns the tables on me, such that even if the twist may be predictable in the end, I've enjoyed myself so much that it doesn't matter.

Fragile Things is one of those rare things I've not had the pleasure of reading in a while; one of those books that I read sloooowly (and I'm a slow reader to begin with) because I'm in no hurry for my reading experience to end.