Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mixed Bag

It's always hard to know how consistent a collection of short stories will be. In any collection there are inevitably some stories I strongly prefer to others. Two collections I've recently enjoyed have been Suzanna Clarke's British fairy tales, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and Jhumpa Lahiri's Indian-American stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Clarke has given much credit to Neil Gaiman for her ideas, and thus far I had only read Gaiman's Stardust (I actually think the movie is a lot more fun than the book, which I found a bit flat and anticlimactic). With encouragement from Hayumbone, I gave Gaiman another try, checking out his only book at my local library branch, the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors.

I actually haven't finished it yet and am not sure I will. This is due to its wide range of story genres, most of which I can appreciate, but just a handful of which I really enjoy. In fact, my reaction to stories has ranged from loving one so much I read it twice in one day, to near indifference for several others. The same thing happened to me when I tried to read a second collection by Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners (LOVED the first story, couldn't drum up interest in the others).

Anyhoo, there are three stories in Smoke and Mirrors that I highly recommend. The first, oddly enough, is found in the introduction. "The Wedding Story" ends with a punch in the gut, but in a good way. The second is "Chivalry," a hilarious Arthurian update in which an old lady finds the holy grail at a secondhand shop in present day England, and when a knight (complete with armor and noble steed) appears to claim it, she puts him to work doing odd jobs around her house. The third story (and the one I read twice in one day) is "The Price." It gives me the creeps while simultaneously making me feel pierced and elated. It features a mighty peculiar cat, and you can read it online, but I recommend printing it out and reading it in bed late at night. I think I need to go read it a third time right away, actually. If all of Gaiman's writing were like this story, I'd consume it ravenously.

1 comment:

Ickenham said...

You forgot to mention "Nicholas was...," which I thought was clever. It's also the shortest short story ever.