Well, I am pleased to report that we do not have a repeat last week’s intense befuddlement and annoyance. These stories are certainly not any more cut and dried, because that would be no fun, but at least I feel more internal sense-making and also some intrigue. I like to be intrigued.
Here’s where we stand:
I liked this the least of this week’s stories, probably because it’s one of those poem things and I’m still working on being a poetry person. It may happen, someday, but it hasn’t happened yet. But anyway, this twenty-line poem describes a person, well, “going wodwo,” or becoming, as the intro says, “a wild man of the woods.” I don’t quite follow the path of the story of the poem, nor does it have the delightful cadence of “The Fairy Reel”, but I will give the poem props for imagery. The first stanza reeled me in — “Shedding my shirt, my book, my coat, my life / Leaving them, empty husks and fallen leaves / Going in search of food and for a spring / Of sweet water” — and even though I don’t really get it, I really like the phrase “My skin will be / my face now.” Well, if by “like” I mean “am sort of really creeped out by.” Which I do.
There is a lot going on in this story. The main plot, I suppose, is that there’s a fellow who up and runs away from his life, stops running temporarily to help out a random guy who subsequently completely disappears, then sort of decides to be this guy for a while. As you do. But there’s so much interesting stuff to think about as this plot moves along — the disappeared guy leaves behind an abandoned, totalled car that our narrator minutes previously had seen as intact if broken down. Disappeared Guy was an academic writing about zombies. Our narrator, while pretending to be DG, makes a new friend who also disappears, and some other new friends who may or may not exist. Like last week’s “Closing Time”, this story has an ending that I don’t quite understand, but this time I felt like the confusing ending at least fit with the story, instead of being completely jarring. Or possibly I am more forgiving when there are potential zombies involved.
As soon as I heard Gaiman say, in his fantastic voice, “‘Other People,'” I said to myself, “Hell is?” And I was SO RIGHT. I love it when that happens. There are no “other people” in this story, but there is Hell, and it is very hellish. There’s a guy, and he wanders into Hell, and he meets a demon who proceeds to beat the crap out of him with 211 different instruments of OW. And then, for good measure, the demon forces the guy to admit to himself every bad thing he’s ever done or said or thought or probably thought about thinking, over and over and over again. And from what I can tell, that is a LOT of bad things. Interestingly, I missed the important point of the story while ears-reading because I apparently had the attention span of a goldfish that day, but as soon as I started eyes-reading it yesterday I decided that this story was fantastic. This week’s favorite!
“Keepsakes and Treasures”
Oh, goodness, I am turning into one of those Parents Television Council people, aren’t I? I was all for the story when I thought it was going to be violence and sloppy eating, but then it took a turn toward the sex intercourse and I was like, “Oh, that’s gross.” I mean, I still read the story, but I really wanted more gruesome killing. Please don’t tell me what that means about me. Ahem. Anyway. Here’s an example of a story where I don’t know any of the background (Gaiman notes in the intro that this story is based on characters from a comic that I’ve never heard of), but the story was just fine anyway. To spoil everything, there’s an unnamed dude who works for this guy called Mr. Alice, and Unnamed Dude spends a lot of time and effort and Alice’s money to procure for Alice the most beautiful boy in the world for the sex intercourse and then after not very long the beautiful boy gets the flu and dies. And so this is really just a very rated-R way of telling a very universal truth, and even though I was like, “ew, cooties,” the way that Gaiman wrote the heck out of this story really sold it to me. There’s the setup of our unnamed narrator being a bit of a serial killer (sidenote: I did a small but very literal spit take at the dissonance between these consecutive sentences: “She was a looker, my mum. I didn’t know which one of the four was my dad, so I killed all of them.” FANTASTIC), and so also really completely disaffected by all the bad and/or weird stuff Alice has him hired to do, and there’s one scene that Gaiman wrote where I read it and I was like, “That’s weird, a little bit,” and then a couple pages later Gaiman writes this other little scene where I’m like, “Ew,” and then I remember that first scene and I’m like, “Okay, now I need to go take a shower, euucchh.” In a good way? I don’t know.
I’m not quite hooked on Fragile Things again, but I am feeling much much better about its chances for being awesome. How about you guys?