Well, you might be wondering where I’ve been. After all, it’s only been an entire week since I last posted. Worry not, I’ve not finished any books between now and then, save the one that brings me here tonight. I’ll blame work. And a cold. This has not been my winter, healthwise, and unfortunately, motivation is one of the first things to go when I feel miserable.
Plus, the book I finished today is (surprise surprise) an anthology. Which means that I don’t feel as bad for stretching it out so because I never left a story or poem unfinished for too long. I’m still not thrilled with taking a week to read it, but there’s not much else that could have been done, the way things have gone.
The book is Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman. Since getting over my initial fear of Trigger Warning, I was looking for a chance to read more of Gaiman’s short fiction. Well, read and reread. It seems two of the stories here were already in my library and one of those I have never forgotten.
This is the collection which chooses to end on the incredibly disturbing note of “Snow, Glass, Apples.” It is the most fascinatingly terrifying retelling of Snow White I’ve ever come across and has left an impression from the time I first found it in the library’s copy of Peter S. Beagle’s The Secret History of Fantasy. Obviously the reader isn’t meant to feel comfortable upon finishing Smoke and Mirrors. Well, this edition does have some additional content at the back, but the interview is the closest thing to interesting and isn’t quite as engaging as the introduction.
It’s nice that, in his introduction, Gaiman goes through each of the stories and poems contained within and briefly discusses how each came to be. Unfortunately, I personally prefer those excerpts to either precede each story (so that I haven’t forgotten them by the time I reach said piece) or at the back of the entire book, where I can read them and go “oh, I see how that story came from this!” It’s just a personal thing though, and I do prefer anthologies with those additional bits to those without.
There were several pairs or sets of stories here that were variations on themes in some way. Two stories dealing with Lovecraftian mythos, two stories featuring werewolves (and another with a vampire), multiple stories of stage magic, and, of course, far too many stories to count about sex, sexual feelings, and masturbation.
I don’t automatically condemn stories for being sexual or featuring sex. I just have no interest in and of myself. It just means that those stories tend to be less interesting to me as a person, not to mention awkward. Because it’s Neil Gaiman, though, that doesn’t make those stories any less memorable.
My first major exposure to Gaiman, outside of a couple miscellaneous short stories, was when a friend of mine gave me a flashdrive and said “read this.” It contained all of Sandman, the award-winning comic series Gaiman wrote. I’ll go into more detail about it at some point, when I decided to reread it, but there’s one thing that’s relevant here. The titular character is better known as Dream of the Endless, though he has a plethora of names used by various people and beings. One of his titles is “Prince of Stories.”
I have to wonder if (or how much) Gaiman identifies with Dream. Certainly his short fiction, and often his novels as well, spend a great deal of their time on the borders of dreams and reality, of truths and nightmares, of lies and perceptions. Even the simplest stories have that one element of the fantastic that makes a reader wonder if this could have happened or not.
It’s an interesting idea, to view Gaiman as Dream. For me, as a reader, it’s much easier to visualize the character than the author. Sure, I have a good feel for what makes a Gaiman story…but as a person he’s not very real to me. Characters, on the other hand, whom I’ve grown to love can be very real. There’s reasons why, after finishing a good book, I won’t immediately start another. I just have to sit and turn over what I’ve read in my mind, to relive my favorite moments and cement them in my memory.
I think it’s that way with many famous people. The actual individuals are so distant from us (if you avoid tabloids the way I do) that it’s no wonder the characters they bring to life seem so much closer and attainable. I mean, there’s still people who write fanfiction about real people, but I get the feeling they’re a bit outnumbered by those writing fanfiction about actual works of fiction.
In other book news, I found Arcanum Unbounded in paperback over the weekend, so that’s now sitting proudly on a shelf with the bricks and my Mistborn box set (original trilogy). As expected, the White Sand chapter does not render well at all in a mass market paperback, but I see no reason not to switch over to the graphic novel at that point in the book. After all, it’s in color! Also, having Sanderson’s Cosmere collection means that I no longer have any reason to keep Dangerous Women, as his “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” was far and away the best story in the collection. The rest disgusted me with their views of “dangerous women” being creatures who needed to be stopped, destroyed, or generally overcome with maleness.
I’ve also placed another amazon order. No pre-orders yet – those are far enough away that I didn’t want to wait for them, not with the real reason for the purchase. You see, my work headphones stopped working in one ear. Luckily I had a spare set stowed away in a closet for just such an eventuality…but this also leaves me without headphones at home, in case I deem them necessary. So, another set is now on its way, to gather dust until it too, must go to work. This means that the books added for free shipping are those that were available, on my list, and not a hassle to get.
I would’ve added a used book or two but dear gods what happened? Suddenly every used book on amazon is now $5, with or without paying for shipping? I’ll have to be fairly desperate, or using a gift card, to get some of the out-of-print books I want to read online. I’ll continue to hope I find them in various places in person, where I don’t need shipping, but we all know that this is something of a crapshoot when you’re looking for specific volumes. Once in a while I get lucky, but that’s it.
Anyway, I haven’t yet decided what tomorrow’s book will be, though I do have a number of options. For now, I’ll shelve Smoke and Mirrors and think about what reread I’ll be doing soon.