I find the title of this book oh so exquisitely ironical. Fragile things …
Mr. Neil Gaiman, it is my personal belief, has a talent for the truly horrific that should be illegal. Really.
I first came to this particular conclusion when I read his Coraline a while back. And no, I wasn’t a child. I was nowhere even close to the ‘targeted readership’ that book’s meant for. (Though, that’s an absolutely absurd glass box to put a story in, to my mind. But, I suppose, Marketing knows best.) However. Getting back. Coraline. Now, I don’t count myself as one of those people who are easily frightened by books written to frighten us. Or at least I suppose they are. And yet, somehow, Coraline managed to make me shiver with aforementioned fright. I was almost glad I didn’t find that book as a kid. But now that I’ve read Fragile Things, that might just be too little too late.
Not that Mr. Gaiman’s Fragile Things is meant to be an anthology of ghost/ horror stories. It isn’t meant to be clubbed along with Stephen King’s latest (or any). It is merely (oh, irony) a collection of short stories written by Neil Gaiman over the course of many years for one purpose or another. And yet, this book is guaranteed to haunt me unlike any other have ever been able to. I think it is because, even as the various stories twist and twine in my head, I retain the distinct sense that these stories that I have just read are what nightmares are made of. No matter how old you may be. They pick precisely and oh-so-neatly with razor sharp claws on the strings of nameless childhood fears and then scrape their nails through a clamour of rest-of-your-life (also known as adulthood) fears. It is true that quite a few of the stories and poems in this collection flirt with the supernatural, so to speak. There is a constant cloud of impending supernatural doom hovering around the edges; threatening to gobble up everyone in the story and then spit out their neatly picked bones. But, to me, that is not what makes them so creepy. It is the fact that the final bite when it does come is almost always through human agency. And to me, that is what has always been truly frightening: the things human beings are capable of. The things we’re capable of doing to ourselves and to each other with all the strength of our minds, souls and bodies.
So, if the purpose of this book was to make sure that I never leave my bed again … well, it succeeded. I shall never leave my bed again. And I shall never sleep again. Fragile Things. Truer words … Though, probably, not quite the way he’d meant it.