I FINALLY got my hands on a copy of Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors, (339 pgs, Avon) through Inter Library Loan. It's amazing to me that a writer of this caliber isn't in every library in the world!! I had a hell of a time finding this one! But now that I did, it looks like Short Story Monday is back on!
The Wedding Present isn't really even part of the collection. It's actually in the introduction. Gaiman states that he was going to write a story and give to some friends that were getting married. But he didn't think they would appreciate the story.....it is a little dark. But I liked it so much, I'm adding it to my review. When Brenda and Gordon sat down to write their thank-you's for the wedding presents they received, they found one envelope that was unsigned. Inside was a hand-typed paper, describing perfectly their wedding. Since they couldn't figure out who sent it, the put in a box of their wedding keepsakes. A few years later, it was pulled out so they could reminisce. But it had changed. It no longer told of their wedding, but their marriage. And it didn't in any way reflect their actual marriage, but one that was not a good one. With an eerie twist like The Picture of Dorian Gray, this turned out to be a very special wedding present.
Chivalry is the story of Mrs. Whitaker, a pensioner who liked to browse through The Oxfam shop. It is a second-hand story that sells clothes, books and knick-knacks that have all been donated. Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat - as the opening line of the story reads. She buys it for 30p, and takes it home. She cleans it until it sparkles and places it on her mantle. Then one day, a knight named Galaad arrives on horseback searching for the Grail.
Nicholas Was.....is a one hundred word story that is a creepy twist on St. Nick. In fact, Gaiman used it for his Christmas Cards one year.
Finally, The Price is a story that Gaiman tells about his family, and they way they adopt the cats that come to their house. One day, a special cat, named only Black Cat arrives at their house. He is large and beautiful....and almost human, or so it would seem. He doesn't look like a stray; he is too well-taken-care-of. But he doesn't leave. Each morning, when the family gets up, Black Cat seems to have been in battle the night before. He has cuts and wounds. One day, he seemed so weak, that the family took him the house for four days just so he could recover. And those were the four worst days this family has seen in years.
The thing I've come to realize about Gaiman is he is an unending well of stories. Of the ones I've read, none are even close to being the same. I don't know from where inside his stories come, but I do hope they never stop!! I loved each of these stories!! Chivalry was a very happy, light-hearted story. The others were not. But each was fantastic in the way it was written. Gaiman's magic, his "smoke and mirrors", is his way of taking a few words and creating something lasting and impressionable. And personally, I don't think I will ever look at cats in the same way. I may even have to get one!!
Till next week.......