Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fragile Things Group Read: Four Stories

This week just flew by and I totally was not able to do the story-a-day thing. Still, I wrote about each piece after reading it and that seems to have worked okay (except for a lack of good "absorbing" time).

Again, minor SPOILERS so be aware --


From the introduction: "A wodwo or wodwose, was a wild man of the woods." And while it's a very interesting word, I think the key word in the title of this short piece is "Going" because this is really a poem about the transition from a "regular" life to the escapism and communion of the wodwo lifestyle. The narrator talks about what he is leaving behind and the hardships of starting to live off the resources in the forest. At one point, you almost think he will give it up and head back but then he realizes that the spiritual gains outweigh the physical trials. This is a very thought-provoking piece and is an interesting addition to this collection -- though it certainly exposes a few "fragile things".


There was nothing wrong with this story. But I don't like Santeria or zombies and so I didn't really like this either. It was well written but it wasn't for me. It just made me sad and uncomfortable. It's strange because I like fantasy magic A LOT but this particular flavor of New Orleans magic, the kind that is always associated with evil and never with good, just seems pointlessly dark to me -- kind of like the bitter grounds left after brewing strong, black coffee.


The most puzzling thing about this story is the title. Interestingly (and according to the introduction), it wasn't Gaiman's title for the piece. He called it "Afterlife", which makes much more sense to me. This is a brilliant little story that truly proves a well-known quote --
"We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell." -- Oscar Wilde

This was one story that I wanted to re-read again now that I've finally read American Gods because it's supposedly set in the same world. It turned out to be incredibly disturbing and revolting. I didn't remember much about it as I was re-reading it, which means I probably put it out of my mind, trying to not absorb any of its darkness. Though there were many dark and violent things in American Gods, there was nothing quite like this and for that I'm glad. I'm wondering if there will be anyone in the reading group that truly likes this story.

Hoping for something bright and beautiful next week,


  1. I'm afraid that I didn't really like the poem but I can see that you really did get more out of it - what a very thoughtful response.

    I felt that Bitter Grounds could belong in the American Gods world, and rather liked it for that reason, but I agree about the particular form of magic, which seems very destructive. Not a comfortable story by any means.

    I don't like Other People, but do think it's a good story. The Wilde quote is very apt!

    If you really pushed me one way or the other I suppose I would have to say I liked Keepsakes and Treasures, despite its horribleness. It does add background to the final story in the collection and, oddly, I prefer its darkness to that in Other People.

    But I wouldn't say no to something bright and beautiful next!

  2. This week's stories were more misses than hits with me I'm afraid. Keepsakes and Treasures seemed to be to be dark for dark's sake and just didn't work for me.

    I though that Other People was very well written and intriguing. I guess the titles comes from the line that Hell is Other People, in this case the demons are other people so it fits?

  3. As to the title of Other People, my guess was that it was a connection to the quote, "Hell is other people." I looked up the quote today (and have the longer version of it on my entry for the group read), and apparently Sartre meant: "We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters."

    So, I guess that ties into the story somewhat, I dunno, haha. :)I might be trying to be more clever than I really am.

  4. "This is a very thought-provoking piece and is an interesting addition to this collection -- though it certainly exposes a few "fragile things" - Wow, what a great explanation and analysis of this gem of a little poem. I also really enjoyed "Going Wodwo", but for a slightly more visceral reason. I also really liked that you tied your analysis of "Bitter Grounds" back in to the title - a way of thinking about it I hadn't come to yet!

    And, for the record, I kind of liked "Keepsakes and Treasures"! Well, not really liked it, but appreciated it! Here here for alternate interpretations of the same story - one of the best parts of a read-a-long! Can't wait to hear what you have to say next week.
    - Chelsea

  5. Geranium - I think this was the first time I really did like the poem. Strange! And yes, Bitter Grounds could have also been in the American Gods world -- not a world I would want to live in! And that's strange that we preferred different "darkness" flavors. I think it was the child prostitution that lost me in Keepsakes. Mr. Smith was awful.

    Fence - Ahh! And yet, hell wasn't actually other people, was it? ;)

    Dooliterature - I really like that quote and I think it does actually add something to the story!

    Wereadtoknow - I'm glad that someone else liked Going Wodwo! I thought it was really honest and introspective for being so short. And it seems that we do have some "likes" for Keepsakes and Treasures though no one has professed love for it yet. ;) And I am getting so much out of the group reading too!

  6. Going Wodwo was my favorite this week. Loved what you had to say about it here. I had a very basic interpretation of the title Other People, which is, "Let's hope this happens to other people and not to me!" "Disturbing" and "revolting" are good adjectives for Keepsakes and Treasures. You should write the short story about good magic in New Orleans to fight all the bad ones.

  7. Love your summary of "Going Wodwo". I think you captured it brilliantly. And I like that part of the story even though it just didn't click with me emotionally the way the other two poems have. I hope that changes over time with more exposure to the Green Man folklore.

    We see eye-to-eye on Keepsakes and Treasures. "Revolting" is an apt description as I find much of the overdone sex and violence in it to be exactly that. It doesn't really work for me as an additional expansion of AG characters because frankly AG did just fine in exposing how evil and nasty the "baddies" in the story were.

  8. Emily - Yes, I certainly hope to avoid a fate like the one in Other People! And maybe I should write about good magic in New Orleans. That's a really interesting idea.

    Carl - I hope to gain a better appreciation of the poem with more research too. That's one thing I like about Gaiman -- he leads you to so many other things.
    And I fully agree about K&T. American Gods did a great job of showing the dark side of things. Is there no light in a world inhabited by its gods?