Monday, November 26, 2007

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors


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.......

21 comments:

Chris said...

Glad you enjoyed these Steph! I liked Smoke and Mirrors even better than Fragile Things. The stories are just amazing in this one. Hope you enjoy them too. I love the Wedding Present :) Perfectly creepy. You can buy Christmas cards with the Nicholas Was story and illustration..you just have to hunt for them online. I found them but I can't remember the website right now :/ They're really cool though!

Nymeth said...

The other day you said you found it hard to review short stories, but let me tell you, you are very good at it! I love these stories too, and I agree with everything you said about them.

I can't wait until you get to Snow, Glass Apples. It's one of my favourite stories EVER! And as a fellow fan of dark and vampire tales, I have a feeling you'll love it.

Nicola said...

Oh, these all sound so good! I haven't read his short stories yet. Must get cracking! And I'll be looking forward to your Monday posts again.

Stephanie said...

Chris - I can't imagine that I would like these more than some of the stories from Fragile Things....but you never can tell!! This is seriously my Year of Gaiman!! Loved the Wedding Present! I will have to look for those Christmas cards too!

Nymeth - Thanks!! Vampires??? Dang, I may have to skip to the end and read it soon!!

Nicola - Yep. Gaiman has done it again!! I've got to go back and say, I'm now a BIG fan of the short story!! And I'll back again with more Next Monday!

kookiejar said...

I wish I was a close personal friend of Neil's. Stories for wedding presents and in Christmas cards! How excellent is that?

Stephanie said...

Kookie - Me too!! I'd love to get to know the man that comes up with these wonderful stories!! He wrote a story in the last book I read for his daughter's birthday present!

Marg said...

Stephanie, did you receive my email last week??

Marg said...

I've replied now...just in case it doesn't come through.

I have had numerous emails come back from you marked as undelivered. Not sure why either.

Melody said...

Wow, this one sounds really good! I haven't read this yet; and I'm sure Neil Gaiman's books are all great! He's such a talented author!!

Carl V. said...

Yay! Glad you read and enjoyed this one so much! Smoke and Mirrors is an amazing book. I have a CD with Neil reading some of the stories from this one and it is so great. I especially enjoy listening to him read Chivalry, one of my all time favorite short stories. So what Gaiman do you have left to read? I can't remember if you've read Fragile Things or not. I actually like both short story books. They are certainly different, but its hard for me to pick one over the other.

raidergirl3 said...

How cool would it be to have someone write you a story as a present? Glad you are enjoying the Gaiman books. I love when I find a new author and they have already written tons of stuff.

Stephanie said...

Marg - I got it!! I'll reply in the morning!

Melody - So far, so great!!

Stephanie said...

Carl - Yes, I read Fragile Things for the RIP Challenge. It was phenomenal!! I can't imagine this one being better, but Chris said he actually thought it was.

I've never been a big short story reader to be honest. Short Stories have, to me, lacked in character development and story lines. But I'm throwing Gaiman up there with Stephen King (and anyone who knows me, knows this is an honor!) His short stories suck you in from the very first line.

This has truly been my "Year of Gaiman!". I started out with my first ever book, American Gods. I was so impressed, I've since read Anansi Boys, Stardust and Fragile Things. Next year, I'll go for the rest!

So, I guess a big thanks goes to you for "pushing" his work!

Stephanie said...

Raidergirl - That would be just the coolest thing ever. A story written just for you!

Melody said...

BTW, you're tagged, Stephanie! ;P

DesLily said...

Chivalry was in the book Wizards and I thought that was a really good story! Makes ya kinda wanna look around in second hand shops lol!

tanabata said...

I really need to read more Gaiman. I've only read Coraline and Neverwhere. Sounds like some of his short stories would be good.

Debi said...

Wow, Stephanie, wonderful review! I don't know what my problem is...the little I've read of Gaiman has blown me away. And yet I can't seem to get around to reading more. And I even have four of his books, unread, sitting right here on my shelves. Perhaps I need my head examined...or perhaps I just need double the hours in a day. sigh

jean pierre said...

unending well of stories is right!! ooh, i'm so glad i still have this one waiting for me... like a christmas present that one is holding off from opening... :)

Marg said...

I'm not sure if it is my email that isn't working properly or yours. I didn't get the email from you. Did you send it?

John Mutford said...

You've definetly sold me on the guy. It's nice when you get hooked from even the intro!