Thursday, August 18, 2016
I usually am not enthused about introductions, but I love all of Neil Gaiman's writing. He defines and discusses trigger warnings, seeing them as good for people with PTSD that would be harmed by some material and also seeing them as an overprotective measure that keeps people from experiencing things that both make them uncomfortable and allows them to experience things outside of their worldview. He never falls on either side. I love his discussion of the phrase "secure your mask before heading others" that extends beyond airplane oxygen mask to He also lists all of his stories and poems with the inspirations and stories behind them which I would flip back to before I started each one.
Making a Chair poem
Only Neil can make a poem about assembling a chair that is funny, touching, and sad.
This story features a Lunar Labyrinth that attracts and benefits different types of people during different types of year, including lovers, family, and the elderly. It exists, but was burned down. The labyrinth only stands shin high, which should be fairly unthreatening, but captures the wonder and terror of this labyrinth that can cure you ills or kill you based on your performance. This story is magical and atmospheric.
The Thing About Cassandra
This story has a bizarre setup where a man made up a first girlfriend named Cassandra as a boy, but discovers she is real years later. The finale is oddly sinister and weird, but keeps that magical atmosphere,
The Truth is in the Caves of the Black Mountains
A small man, the size of a child, seeks out Calum Macinnes to lead him to a cave said to be full of riches. Calum is a horrible guy who beats and (probably) rapes his wife for letting the man in. Their journey is filled with suspicion and begrudging trust. The ending has an interesting and satisfying twist that I never saw coming. There's a version of this in book form that has beautiful illustrations and an audiobook version with music composed by Fourplay accompanying it.
My Last Landlady
This is another atmospheric story, but the imagery makes you feel that you are on this dreary beach with horrible food and am equally horrible landlady. It has an undercurrent of unease beneath the dreariness and the ending is perfect.
It starts out with a situation anyone can relate to: your mother is rambling on and on about inane things. Eventually, this mother nonchalantly talks about bizarre stories she only half knows involving her husband that are huge revelations to her son. Then she returns to her inane rambling as if nothing ever happened. I love this story because of that nonchalance and the relatable way something crazy is brought up and then repressed as if it never happened.
This story is told in a Q&A format where the Q's are absent, leaving only the answers of a teenage girl. It's kind of like listening to one half of a phone conversation. Some of the answers give no indication of the question, allowing my mind to go wild with the possibilities. It starts out fairly normal, but then it goes off the deep end when this girl's older sister takes her tanning to shocking extremes leading to weird twists, aliens, and mind control.
A Calendar of Tales
These are micro stories that feature all 12 months of the year. My favorite story is October. A genie appears to a woman, but she doesn't want anything. On the site for A Calendar of Tales, you can see all the art made by people, the questions Neil asked to people on Twitter that inspired the stories, and the audio and print versions of each story.
The Case of Death and Honey
This is probably my favorite story of the collection. It continues the Sherlock Holmes story and answers why he went into beekeeping. It seems that he wouldn't just want to do something mindless or relaxing. Even an aged Holmes would want to keep solving mysteries, but this one is a mystery that no one has been able to solve for the whole of human history. He goes to China to experiment with different types of bees to find his answer. This story is told out of time and shows how his brother is dying and everyone he knows are retiring or being ravaged by age. I love the added fantastical element that makes it fit in with the collection.
Click-Clack the Rattlebag
I love this story because it subverts every expectation and relies on the narrator and the reader underestimating the child in the story. It's very creepy and perfect for a sleepover, a campfire, or a bedtime story.