A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a reading at the Printers Row Book Fair. Neil Gaiman read from his children’s story, The Wolves in the Walls. He spoke about writing and comic books and film. He told stories about his life and his family. At the time, The Wolves in the Walls was not yet published. Dave McKean had not finished most of the artwork. After he had read the story, Gaiman took questions from the audience and signed books. I had recently finished his novel, Neverwhere, and had added him to my ever expanding list of favorite authors. I have anticipated each of his new books as they come out.
Fragile Things is Gaiman’s latest book. Published in 2006, Fragile Things is the third Gaiman collection of short stories and poetry. One short story in this compendium, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”, was nominated for a 2006 Hugo Award. Another, “A Study in Emerald,” won the Hugo Award in 2004 for best short story. In “A Study in Emerald”, Gaiman fulfills an editor’s request: “I want a story in which Sherlock Holmes meets the world of H. P. Lovecraft.” Reviews of this collection have been mixed– the San Diego Union-Tribune took real issue with Gaiman and described him as “a bantamweight Poe”. I attribute this accusation to the fact that they do not know how to categorize Gaiman as an author and this condition makes them uncomfortable. I find the comparison to Poe short-sighted. Like so many other authors I enjoy, Gaiman refuses to sit quietly in a particular genre or literary space. I cherish these sorts of collections as a way to showcase the breadth of an author’s talents; I see them as literary sandboxes into which they have invited me to play along.