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Elah Adonijai
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I finished reading Fragile Things last night and for the most part enjoyed it. Favorite stories were: Monarch of the Glen (nice to see Shadow again -- I was shocked by how much Mr. Smith made me laugh, especially after reading the other story he was featured in), The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch, A Study in Emerald, Goliath, and the Problem of Susan (just because it disturbs me so). Poetry-wise I really liked the Day the Saucers Came and Inventing Aladdin.

I have a theory about Fragile Things vs. Smoke and Mirrors: people who were introduced to Gaiman via Sandman will enjoy Smoke and Mirrors more as a collection; people introduced to Gaiman via his prose will enjoy Fragile Things more.

Anyone care to weigh in?


____________________________________________________________________
"Patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer i beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce
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Posts: 2179 | Location: Hiding in the secret compartments of Whittier, CA | Registered: July 08, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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that's interesting. i read Fragile Things before i read Smoke and Mirrors (only finished S & M 2 days ago). I came to enjoy Gaiman through his prose-Stardust was the 1st i read.i do think i enjoyed Fragile Things more, but have never read the sandman stuff (don't hate me!)
I don't know if i enjoyed FT more becauseof reading Gaiman's prose first,
or if i liked it more than S&M because it was the first collection of Neil's shorts that i read, so it stuck with me more. Does that make any kinda sense? lol! Smile


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Beware the Deadly Donkey, falling from the sky. You can choose the way you live, my friend, but not the way you die. ~ Edward Monkton
 
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Goofy Beast
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I really seem to be going off Gaiman... Frankly, I thought that Fragile Things was okay at best, but there were very few stories that I think will stay with me. Compare that to Smoke and Mirrors - the best material in FT for me is roughly on a par with the mediocre stuff in S&M.

What *really* annoyed me, though, was how Gaiman obviously felt he needed to mention in every one of the short introductions to the texts that he won this competition or that prize. It very quickly felt like he needed to convince himself that any negative reviews are wrong.

I must say that Monarch of the Glen was perhaps one of the stories that I enjoyed most; yes, it did feel like more of the same after American Gods, but at least it didn't feel quite as precious and twee as so many of the stories. And at least on paper I thought that none of the poems really worked. It might be different in performance.


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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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quote:
Originally posted by Thirith & His Enormous Tibia:
I really seem to be going off Gaiman... Frankly, I thought that Fragile Things was okay at best, but there were very few stories that I think will stay with me. Compare that to Smoke and Mirrors - the best material in FT for me is roughly on a par with the mediocre stuff in S&M.

What *really* annoyed me, though, was how Gaiman obviously felt he needed to mention in every one of the short introductions to the texts that he won this competition or that prize. It very quickly felt like he needed to convince himself that any negative reviews are wrong.

I must say that Monarch of the Glen was perhaps one of the stories that I enjoyed most; yes, it did feel like more of the same after American Gods, but at least it didn't feel quite as precious and twee as so many of the stories. And at least on paper I thought that none of the poems really worked. It might be different in performance.


This is interesting to me, Thirith, because of my different reaction to most of the stories in FT. I haven't sat down and actually counted it out, but my overall impression of FT was how dark most of the stories were. Would you be willing to discuss any one or two of them specifically -- one you didn't like or one you did? (It's totally cool if not -- I know you're really busy right now!) I also enjoyed most of Smoke which I read a number of years ago, but at about the same percentage as FT.

Mentioning all the awards . . . yes, that is unfortunate, but not something I consciously noticed until you mentioned it. I like however that with the "Bitter Grounds" story, he writes that he thinks it was his best short story of that year but that it won no awards. For some reason that makes me smile.


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Thirith has read my thoughts and posted them in his post Smile

Well, except the bit about enjoying Monarch of the Glen. I almost hated it.

I did like some of the stories, but I don't think I *loveD* any. I thought A Study in Emerald was a very clever crossover, but it never goes anywhere beyond 'ooh, looky what I've done...'. I liked Bitter Grounds, more than the first time I ever read it, but, besides the actual topic, it lacks any originality or punch. I did like Sunbird quite a lot, but again it felt a bit superficial, like Neil was brushing on the surface of a story without diving in it. I found the parody 'gothic' story quite amusing, but not particularly.
I have forgotten most of the others. I do think he has brilliant ideas for stories, but it just feels like he's rushing through them. I don't know, maybe reading the blog has spoiled my image of him, but I feel like he's writing all these things at once, so once he has an idea he rushes to write it and hands it in, without chewing on the idea enough to realise whether it's enough for a story, or who the characters are, or whether the ending is satisfactory or not.

I think my favourite is Goliath, I read it ages ago though on that website, and I thought it is a great 'classical' Gaiman story.


 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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Hi Clover, I'm rushing right now but will revisit this later. I *love* talking about this stuff. Smile Just so I know, are you a Sherlock Holmes and HP Lovecraft fan? And why did you hate Monarch? I'm wondering 'cause the first time I read it I didn't like; had to read it again, and liked it much better and more of it made sense (the whole Grendel thing and the modern day version of the meadhall, etc., finally clicked the second time).

Okay, more later, and thanks again for responding. Smile


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"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
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and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
Posts: 1540 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: March 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I need to re-read it, too. I think there's a lot of stuff I didn't get, references and such (for example, I have no knowledge of Beowulf).
I think I hated it mostly coz I was expecting to see some change in Shadow. But he just felt exactly the same as in American Gods -he seems not to have altered any of his behaviour, he still walks through life without participating actively on it but rather let things happen to him. AMERICAN GODS SPOILERS AHEAD And I thought that was a bit unbelievable -his life was turned upside down, his wife mad ehim see that he was dead inside, he actually died and came back, met lodas of gods and avoided a stupid war... you'd think he'd have a different approach to life... But, a sI said, I need to re-read it more carefully.

As for A Study... I used to be a huge Sherlock Holmes fan when I was a kid, and I've read a few Lovecraft. SPOILERS AHEAD I though it was great to have the royal family be of the Cthuluh race, but after the 'revelation' to the reader, nothing really happens, nothing is taken forward. It's just a 'What if...?', without the conclusion.

Overall, a lot of the stories have a very clever premise or idea, or are told in a clever way, but there's not much substance.
As compared with: in Smoke and Mirrors, the stories are soemtimes original in their subject (Murder Mysteries, for example) or a clever take on an old folk tale with a good insight in the characters (Snow, Glass... and Troll Bridge), you have a disturbing erotic story (Tastings), a homage with some disturbing child abuse background (A Life, Furnished...), little gems (the Sweeper of Dreams, The Daughter of Owls), some sci-fi (Reboot), and The DAy We Visited the End of the World, etc, which I don't know how to classify.
All of these stories I found amazing, because they have a unique combination of originality in the plot/theme, a very raw insight into the characters, a dark, creepy element in them... There's some stories I don't care much about, but I have re-read every one of them at least twice.

I haven't even finished Fragile Things. When I got near to the end I found myself picking other books to read...


 
Posts: 11802 | Location: home? | Registered: June 19, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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i must admit to not having bought it yet
no did i get the etrnals..i think like thrith i'm getting a bit bored...i feel like he's taking on too many things and non-of them are getting his full attention...


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the parrot... ...gets tiresome.
the parrot... ...i ate him.


CHIKKINZ?
 
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What Smaug said. Although, I have to say, I liked Anansi Boys. (Even though I missed some genuine originality, ever since American gods I feel he's just pulling threads from the same skein, so to speak, instead of knitting with new wool altogether. God that was an awful metaphore Big Grin)


 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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First, I have a paper due tomorrow and I'm not even close to finishing and I'm kinda, well, mad about it. I'm officially sick of homework. Mad I realize this is definitely a "my problem" -- the weird upshot of it is that all I want to do instead is read and post to the board! So this will be disjointed and probably stupid and irritating. But I'm tryin' anyway. Smile

POTENTIAL SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!


I thought "A Study" was quite, quite brilliant. My favorite parts were the faux Victorian newspaper advert thingies -- those are little gems of genius, in my opinion. (For some reason, the one about Dracula took me forever to figure out!)

I thought Bitter Grounds was also amazing. I had to read it twice. The opening sentence needs some contemplating and sets up the rest of the story. I felt like I was trapped in a hazy, smoky, scary yet alluring nightmare.

I don't have time right this second to go into each one that I liked as I MUST get to work on my paper. But I'm sure that later I will feel the need of a break (sadly, I will undoubtedly feel that way in about, oh, say, 10 minutes or so) and will be right back here posting about stories. Smile

(Got to add, "How Do You Think It Feels" was one of the most frightening stories I've ever, ever read. Wow.)


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"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
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and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
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Goofy Beast
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Monkgrrr, I'd definitely be in for discussions on the stories. I haven't got them here right now, so I couldn't tell you which titles I'm most interested in.

I liked "A Study" (although I'm not sure whether I got all the allusions, as I haven't read many of the Holmes stories and I only know H.P. Lovecraft second-hand); as far as the Victoriana (especially the ads) are concerned, though, I simply felt that Alan Moore does that better and in a more funny way in his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books.

Goliath was a good story, although it kept clashing in my head with my memories of The Matrix. Clover, I didn't mind Shadow's lack of development at all because I never saw Shadow as much of a character - for me he was simply someone all this cool and weird stuff could happen to, and it's the readers reactions to the events and characters that are central, not his. He's a blank reflection pane, and as that he works for me. Having an actual character with a rich interior life would mean that I could only experience Gaiman's imaginative world at a remove.

I think the stories that I liked best in Fragile Things were the ones that had an element of nostalgia (for childhood or adolescence - there's the one about kids who go into the little hut and the narrator stays outside, or the one with the aliens at the party). That's more or less the only emotion that worked for me in the texts. Smoke and Mirrors pushed a lot more emotional buttons with me.

In a way, in Gaiman's earlier work it felt like there was more at stake. Much of his newer stuff strikes me as someone writing Neil Gaiman texts, almost mechanically. It's as if he got a technically proficient replacement to write his stuff, and I'm waiting for him to get back from his break.


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We scraped along like rats, but now we will soar like eagles... eagles on pogo sticks!
 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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Hi Thirith,my paper is complete (unfortunately, I am convinced that it totally and completely bites and is perhaps the worst paper I've ever written, but that's not your problem, so I'll try not to inflict my irritation on you! Eek) and now I'm preparing for my final, so again, this will be shortish and maybe disjointed.

I am not the Alan Moore fan that you are, I think. I have read some of the bigger titles, and they neither irritated me nor enthralled me. I can see why others enjoy him and I understand his importance, but I'm still waiting for the magic to happen (so to speak). A long roundabout way of saying I haven't read his Victorian stuff so I can't judge it against "Emerald." I can only attest to how much that story grabbed me. And I thought it was brilliant. Not genius -- brilliant. It helps of course that I am a lover of Holmes and Lovecraft, so I understood much of those references and they are important to understanding the overall tone of the story. (I also have read the stories in "Shadows Over Baker Street" which is the collection of stories in the Holmes/Lovecraft mash-up, and while some are good, most are not up to Gaiman's level.)

"Goliath" was mildly enjoyable, but made no deep impression. No accounting for taste, huh? Wink (And no, I'm not a fan of the Matrix stuff, so those references went right past.)

I agree with Clover's first impression and I too wanted more of Shadow because to me, he was what made me care about "American Gods". Yet when I start thinking about what happened in the novella, I find there is something there. Shadow is again trying to help those that need help. He doesn't think too far ahead and so finds himself, once again, in the presense of those who mean him no good (quite like Mr. Wednesday) but are happy to use his talents and strength. What I like is how he foils their expectiations -- also a theme from AG -- by trying to do a decent thing. He is helping this poor monster who is helpless and hurt and confused. I especially like the mom (go mean moms protecting their babies!). Smile And at the end, Shadow has again found some strength no one suspects. He rejects Mr. Alice's "advice" and goes off on his own. Yes, it's a repeating theme from AG, but in my readings I don't mind repeating themes. (Jane Austen, anyone?) In fact, if it's a theme I love, I'm *thrilled* to find it repeated.

I find what you wrote about the emotional tone most interesting. To me, the emotional tone of FG is dark, dark. It almost scares me, to see this charming, vivacious, friendly man writing such dark things. Unsettling and attractive at the same time. I didn't feel so dark with Smoke. Yet honestly, I don't remember clearly very many stories in Smoke, much as I enjoyed them at the time. Whereas with FG, at least two of the stories come up in some train of thought every day since I've read them. Like uneasy memories of something maybe I did wrong and was supposed to fix, but now I can't remember . . . Very uncomfortable feeling. So to me, I found these stories powerful.

Always up for more, even if it takes me a while to respond!

g


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"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
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and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
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On Victorian memorabilia: what Thirith said.

On Shadow as a blank pane: yes, Thirith, he is that in aG, but at the end he's changed -he feels alive, he does the unexpected... At the end we can see him in bloody Iceland! And then when we see him again, he's slipped into his old ways. Whici was disappointing. Of course, it is entirely plausible that that would happen, but in that case I'd expect sme 'catch up', something that would explain this change... But, as there wasn't, I just felt like Gaiman was thinking more about new readers that didn't know Shadow than on the old ones. (Just as I felt, with AG, that he was addressing new readers who had not read The Sandman, so he could use the same themes and some situations again.)
Monarch of the Glen wasn't, to me, the same theme in a new story, it was the same story, only shorter and simpler. But I'll read it again, and see what I get from it.

I read Goliath when it came out, ie, BEFORE the 2nd and 3rd film, and together with some of the comics people wrote base don the theme. So it didn't clash for me, it was just a story set up in this world that had just come out.

I had forgotten about the party/aliens story! That was a good one. (Still I felt there could be more to it...)

And I thought Smoke and Mirrors was tremendously dark... There's not (I think) a snigle story in it that doesn't have murder, abuse or cruelty in it. And a lot of them under the mask of normality, which makes it even more disturbing. Like in the story 'Mouse'. In Fragile Things, maybe, there's too much supernatural stuff for the darkness to really make such an impact... (IMO, at least).


 
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Elah Adonijai
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So do you think it's fair to say Fragile Things was more whimsical?

I thought there were some unbelievably brutal stories in FT. The one with Mr. Alice and Smith (not the Monarch of the Glen, the other, although I suppose it was pretty brutal, too). And for me, the Problem of Susan was just about as dark as it can get (although I suspect that may have more do with my own personal faith as anything else). I found How Do You Think It Feels also quite disturbing. I should probably re-read Bitter Grounds, because I read it at bedtime and remember feeling like, "huh?" at the end of it.

The more I think about Goliath, the more I like it. It would've fit in nicely with some of the Animatrix shorts (which in my opinion were generally far better than the second and third films).


____________________________________________________________________
"Patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer i beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce
----------------------
A Good Scoundrel isn't Hard to Find
 
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Goofy Beast
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I see how the plots of FT might be seen as dark, but the execution of the stories and the tone lacked that. I think I'll agree with Clover for a change rather than the other way round Big Grin - perhaps it was the heavier reliance on the supernatural. I haven't quite figured out what it is, but FT feels a lot more like genre fiction (and genre fiction only) to me.

The Problem of Susan raised an interesting question, but it's not a new one. Perhaps it would have had more of an impact on me if I'd read the later Narnia books; not having done so, I've read quite a lot *about* them. I felt that the short story didn't do much for me beyond asking a question ("Is what happens to Susan fair, or right? Is this a good, just God who lets this happen?"). There were one or two elements there that added to it, but I think it would have been much improved by taking out the clumsy element of the interviewer making every bloody thing utterly explicit.


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We scraped along like rats, but now we will soar like eagles... eagles on pogo sticks!
 
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Elah Adonijai
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quote:
Originally posted by Thirith & His Enormous Tibia:
*Snip*
I haven't quite figured out what it is, but FT feels a lot more like genre fiction (and genre fiction only) to me.


I hear what you're saying and that makes total sense. I remember reading Smoke and Mirrors and thinking, geez, he's all across the board in this one genre-wise. FT seemed more stream-lined to me. Interesting, because I think that's part of the reason I liked it more.

As far as the Problem of Susan, what disturbed me more than the question you brought up (Is what happened to Susan right) was the dream sequence at the end, with the lion going down on the witch and what it implied -- that God and Satan are explicitly in it together.


____________________________________________________________________
"Patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer i beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce
----------------------
A Good Scoundrel isn't Hard to Find
 
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I think The Problem of Susan does more than ask the question, it kind of answers it with "it's not fair". It takes sides against what happened to her, at least implicitly.

The question of God and Satan is a good synthesis of it, Scoundrel. It's not new even to Neil, the whole point of Murder Mysteries is that Satan plays a role that God assigned him, because God wanted him to do precisely that. In MM Lucifer is reluctant and resents God for it, while in TPoS the witch embraces her role. But in both cases it's God's will that manifests in everything that happens. I think that last part is a good point he has and I agree with him.
 
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Elah Adonijai
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Inetersting analogy, Chimeer. I guess TPoS disturbed me more because the coercion between Aslan and the witch seemed even-handed and balanced, whereas in MM God clearly manipulated Lucifer.

Does that distinction make sense?


____________________________________________________________________
"Patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer i beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce
----------------------
A Good Scoundrel isn't Hard to Find
 
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It does.
I will have to agree with Thirith in TPoS, in the 'journalist making everything utterly explicit' bit. This bothered me because it's not like Neil at all to smack you in the face like that.


 
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Wild horses did drag her away, once - long story
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quote:
Originally posted by Thirith & His Enormous Tibia:
I see how the plots of FT might be seen as dark, but the execution of the stories and the tone lacked that. I think I'll agree with Clover for a change rather than the other way round Big Grin - perhaps it was the heavier reliance on the supernatural. I haven't quite figured out what it is, but FT feels a lot more like genre fiction (and genre fiction only) to me.

The Problem of Susan raised an interesting question, but it's not a new one. Perhaps it would have had more of an impact on me if I'd read the later Narnia books; not having done so, I've read quite a lot *about* them. I felt that the short story didn't do much for me beyond asking a question ("Is what happens to Susan fair, or right? Is this a good, just God who lets this happen?"). There were one or two elements there that added to it, but I think it would have been much improved by taking out the clumsy element of the interviewer making every bloody thing utterly explicit.

I think that it is perhaps unfair to say that the story doesn't do anything for you as if that's a criticism when you haven't read the Lewis story, but only about it. (And if I misunderstood what you wrote earlier, I apologize and consider the above sentence withdrawn.)

First, a couple of important facts about the story: the Professor (and I love the irony of her being called that, as that is the unofficial title of Digory Kirk in LWW) is never named as being Susan, or as Professor Pevensie. Her name is Prof. Hastings. The lion in the dreams is never named as Aslan, nor is the witch specifically named the White Witch. There is so much play, blurring of the lines, almost a dream-type of lucidity in the story.

Of course the story isn't addressing new questions. In truth, how many new questions could there be about Lewis, now 50 years after the publication of the Narnia stories? But it is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the first *stories* addressing the issues directly. I think the journalist isn't being overly explicit as much as she is identifying the issues. What the journalist is representing and explaining is vital -- stories we read in childhood, regardless of how we come to see them as adults, deeply affect us for the rest of our lives. I think this character is voicing some of Gaiman's own frustrations with Lewis. Also, at the end, you aren't quite sure -- who is having that last bit of disturbing dream? If Prof Hastings is already dead, then is it the journalist dreaming? Has she become the inheriter of all the Prof Hastings, and the left-behind Susan, felt and lived? I do not see the lion and witch as being evidence of cooperation between God and Satan as much as showing that to Prof Hastings, how are they different? If you look at Susan's story from Prof Hasting's bitter perspective, Aslan wasn't a loving God and Creator, but the Thing that killed her family and left her alone and brokenhearted. I'm not saying that's a fair assesment or that Gaiman believes that -- but it is a possibility that he raises. And then deliberately doesn't answer. That is the crux of this story: nothing is answered or made easy. A problem is brought to the fore and left unresolved. You're not even sure if the arguments are fair, but there's no way to answer them without any peace. I think it's an amazing story.

Re genre -- I've always thought that Gaiman wrote in *one* genre: mythopoeic. That's why the Mythopoeic Society, of which I am an active member, always seems to be at least nominating if not outright awarding his work, since at least 1996. To me, it's always mythopoeic and never has been anything else. Whether it's Smoke or Coraline or AG or Boys or FT or Sandman -- it's all mythopoeic. He's been writing the same themes forever, and I don't think he would or has denied that.

BTW, there is a Problem of Susan thread from way long ago. Somewhere . . .


********-------********
"this whole blonde doctor situation has me mortified"
---
and I don't normally advocate music I love, but go see www.myspace.com/umbrellatree and thank me later!
 
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