It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. In fact, he is the first to ignite in me a love of the short story. I’d read short stories in school, as we all did, but I’d never really enjoyed them much, and certainly never actively sought them out for pleasure reading.
These are probably two of my favorite books ever, which is such a shocking statement for me to make considering they are both short story collections. And it seems fitting to discuss these works during an All Hallow’s Read event designed to raise 1,000 books for charity, especially considering Gaiman first created this new holiday tradition as a way to encourage the gifting of a scary story or book for Halloween.
Gaiman’s work often has a dark quality to it, taking the mundane and ordinary and painting it with the macabre, or taking the macabre and recreating it entirely.
Of particular note are a few stories that have stayed with me over the last few years since I first read them. Murder Mysteries and Snow, Glass, Apples in Smoke and Mirrors, and The Problem of Susan in Fragile Things.
Let us first look at Murder Mysteries. I have fond memories of spending countless hours dissecting every word of this story with my brother, on a rare night when our adult lives allowed us to reconnect as we once had as children.
It’s a recount of the first murder in the history of the universe… an angel is killed, and another angel tells this story to a young man in the 20th century. My brother and I analyzed every symbol, every character, every nuance, trying to decipher the mysteries. Did the angel erase the man’s mind? Who committed the human murders? How many people actually died? What did the elevator represent?
If you’re looking for a fantastic treat this Halloween, I strongly suggest picking up a copy of this story, or, better yet, the entire collection.
In Snow, Glass, Apples, the Snow White story becomes decidedly Un-Disney as Gaiman wraps his brilliant prose around the heroine’s pretty white neck and pulls her into a much darker place, where she becomes the villain. The story is told from the stepmother’s point of view, as she struggles to save the kingdom from her unnatural and monstrous stepdaughter.
And finally, in The Problem of Susan, my beloved Chronicles of Narnia are looked at through the eyes of the forgotten Susan, who loses her chance at redemption as she ages. In this story, Susan is an old woman, telling her story of being cast out of Narnia. The imagery here is stunning and, at times, graphic. More significantly, the philosophical dilemma it unearths is well worth considering.
Gaiman has many other books and stories worth reading, and I will be a forever fan of his twistedly sublime prose and storytelling.
I would never have discovered these books had a friend not gifted them to me. I have since passed on my copies to others, and bought more that I keep giving away. I hope you will join me in the celebration of reading, as we work together to give books to those less fortunate, and share in the love of stories.
To learn more about Fiction Frolic and what 10 authors (myself included) are doing to raise books for charity, visit: http://fictionfrolic.blogspot.com/