Sunday, October 9, 2011

In which the Heroine attempts to get back in the blogging game by posting her Fragile Things Group Read post...

It seems like every time I write a post on Fragile Things it seems as though I only have negative things to say, but yet I still consider Neil Gaiman one of my favorite contemporary writers.  I think I'm going to divide up my review of each story with a one sentence description of the piece, a favorite quotation, a statement on what worked for me and a statement about what didn't work.  Even the most loathsome of stories has something I like... even if it is just a turn of phrase or image or structural aspect. 

What it is:  A lovely poem about a father reading the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears to his daughter.  It is a layered piece discussing the violation the three bears (especially Papa Bear) felt after having their home infiltrated by a nosy little girl, but mostly it is about the father embracing those moments when his little girl can beg for a simple story and it is easy for him to keep her safe and make her happy. 
Favorite Line:  "We owe it to each other to tell stories. / These days my sympathy's with Father Bear. / Before I leave my house I lock the door, / and check each bead and chair on my return./ Again. / Again. / Again."
What worked for  me:  I love this poem.  It is beautifully constructed, deep, and loving with out saccharine sentimentality.  This is Gaiman at this finest.  His best writing -- to me -- showcases his ability to write subtlety quite well.  It is when he "lays it all out" that I think his writing suffers.  Keep this in mind when I write on the stories for this week.
What didn't work:  no complaints!

The Problem of Susan
What it is:  a story about C. S. Lewis's Susan post-The Last Battle.  And holy hell what a train wreck.
Favorite Line:  erm..... I got nuthin'
What worked for me:  the general idea....As one who grew up in a conservative Christian home-educated environment I can say that The Chronicles of Narnia where a HUGE part of my reading life as a young girl.  The Silver Chair is one of my most favorite books, but the series as a whole was lacking to me.  I always identified with Susan the most and I was taught when reading the last book that Susan didn't get to go to heaven because Susan didn't "believe".  I don't know what C.S. Lewis had in mind with Susan, but when I turned Bikini Kill-listening Riot Girl in the seventh grade "don't be a Susan" was hammered into my head. 
I was excited to read this story, if only to get a different interpretation and I was so so so disappointed.
What didn't work:  The disgusting over-preoccupation with sex.  From staring at a killed centaur's penis to the White Witch and Aslan having post-kid eating graphic sex, the entire story was a swirling cesspool of ridiculous, overblown sex and violence.  This is Gaiman at his worst.  When Gaiman decides to get graphic he falls prey to being a shock jock of the writing world.  I hated this story.

What it is:  Maybe Gaiman should stick with poetry?  This is a wonderful poem about fairy tales and all of the instructions one receives in fairy-land.
Favorite Line:  "Walk up the path, and through the garden / gate you never saw before but once. / And then go home. / Or make a home. / Or rest."
What worked:  EVERYTHING.  Anne Sexton, Andrew Lang, Angela Carter, and the Grimm Brothers all nob their approval.
What didn't work:  no complaints on this one, either!

How do you think it feels?
What it is:  A man is unfaithful to his wife and has a long-term affair with another woman.  He doesn't even enjoy parenting his twin girls because he can only think about how he will one day leave them for his current hot piece of ass.  What a douche.  He ends up leading a cold and lonely existence and being dominated by some sort of gargoyle he constructed from some of said girlfriend's modeling clay THAT HE JACKED OFF IN.  EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW....... Of course this gargoyle may be real or imaginary. 
Favorite Line:  ermmmmm......
What worked:  .................
What didn't work:  OMG Neil Gaiman!  The Penis is not stronger than the sword.  Quit writing with your dick and write with your brain, heart, and other higher-order organs.  Of course there is a graphic sex scene because apparently Gaiman feels that in order to be a "real" writer there must be excessive use of orgasmic juices.  GROSSSSSSSSSSS.......

Fingers crossed that next week's story want make me turn bright red when I read in public. 


Carl V. said...

You pretty much could have written my post for me this week, LOL!

So glad you enjoyed both of the poems. They are beautiful to read and have so much to say if you give them a chance to speak to you. These are definitely the strongest of Gaiman's forays into poetry and are ones I hope convert even the most ardent poetry hater. :)

I hate The Problem with Susan to. I think without the sexual elements the story could have worked well as a creative and honest assessment of the admittedly problematic treatment Lewis gave to Susan. I could have respected it and it could have given me a lot to think about. Instead it remains a story that I only read once and will never read again (I did not re-read it for this discussion). It is a grossly unnecessarily disrespectful treatment of a beloved children's series and I for one am never comfortable with folks denigrating the work of others in this way, even if I don't like said work.

And you are right about "How" as well. I agree fully with the exception of the whole idea of him ejaculating into the clay. In Jewish tradition the creation of a golem often involves the inclusion of semen and so that actually works well with the folk history. I didn't enjoy Gaiman's description of it, but it is at least faithful to the idea of what a golem is. In the end though the character is a real jerk and I couldn't care less what happens to him because of the way he treats his family.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the stories were definitely lacking this week, though the poems were fantastic.

"Quit writing with your dick and write with your brain, heart, and other higher-order organs." That line made me laugh aloud! :)
I agree with you about this short story. Way too much sex and a character that I hated. Not a good combination! I wish he would go back to writing stories like October in the Chair.

GeraniumCat said...

Although I didn't like "How" I have to agree with Carl about the creation of a golem - that the human element of life-force is a necessary part of its composition - and I thought the conflation of gargoyle/golem was clever. And I can't say right out that I don't think Gaiman should ever write about sex - its role in American Gods, for instance, was not always positive but was necessary to the novel.

It's nice that we all seem pretty much agreed on the poems this week!

Carl V. said...

I agree, I don't think he should *not* write about it, but I agree with the person who said that it doesn't seem to work as well in this short story format.

Amanda said...

That's interesting about the Golem creation. I think I was turned off because this story was so close after reading the Problem of Susan. I think I was just kind of like "here we go again...."