Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fragile Things Group Read: Four Stories (No Poems)

It's another week and we seem to have earned a respite from poetry this week in our Fragile Reads schedule. Not that Mr. Neil is not a competent poet but it really does take a lot for me to love a poem (as you will see toward the end of October where I will finally gush over a poem).

Standard warning: mild SPOILERS ahead.


I might have recognized the title of this piece if I had been a bass clef musician but, alas, I am mainly a treble clef one and I only know FACE (the notes between the lines of the staff) and EGBDF (the notes on the lines -- did I ever know an acronym for them? I don't recall). Well, apparently the notes between the bass clef staff are ACEG and the ones on the staff lines are GBDFA -- Good Boys Deserve Favors Always. As you can probably guess by now, this is a story about imaginary "young Neil" and his experience with the double bass. I would assume that the "real Neil" was never so fortunate as to escape an embarrassing situation with a celebrity by being possessed by his double bass and playing an amazing piece that saved the day. This is a simple story and might be one of my favorites. It's so matter of fact and then the little "haunting" is slipped in as if it was no big deal. The ending is sad but fitting and I think this is a very satisfying piece.


The thing with this story is that I'm not sure if it's a good weird or a bad weird. I have really mixed feelings when I finish reading it. Was it too over-the-top, too strange without that certain something that gives it heft and cohesion? Maybe. I did like, however, the way that Gaiman played with the sentence transitions between sections to change the mood, lend a sense of movement and urgency to the story. I don't think this one will ever be a favorite but I don't really mind reading it.


I used to like Tori Amos more than I do now. I think I just became too content, too satisfied in life to connect with her particular brand of angst and sadness. The music is still beautiful but the lyrics break my heart. And I think I once would have found these "twelve very short stories, written to accompany Tori Amos's CD Strange Little Girls" interesting but now I find them dreary and depressing.


And, to finish the week, I was rather meh on this one as well. I could see how the story was inspired by the artist Lisa Snellings-Clark's brilliant little Poppets but it didn't grab my heart (haha!). Maybe like the previous piece, it was just too sad and bleak. I'll admit that Neil's descriptions of February made me shiver though!

So, one favorite this week and three neutrals. That's still better than the revulsion of last week!

Sticking to the simply supernatural,


  1. Yes, it takes a lot for me to likes poems, too. I am glad we had a break!

  2. We were taught in music classes in elementary school that EGBDF was "Every Good Boy Does Fine". That brings back memories!

    I'm with you in feeling that this probably wasn't autobiographical, but at the same time if we think of it as being told from the viewpoint of a young kid, the virtuoso performance could have just been so merely in his own imagination, thus making it more likely for it to have happened. I can certainly imagine a precocious young Neil Gaiman launching himself with abandon into a musical performance. :) There is a bit of sadness at the end, but of course I also love the line about the fact that girls are on the horizon.

    Your reaction to Miss Finch doesn't surprise me. It is one of my favorite stories but not one in which I can pointedly argue about its brilliance. It works for me partially because I am a HUGE fan of Frank Frazetta, whose artwork inspired it, and partially because the weird elements touch on many things and themes that I like. I also truly like Miss Finch and while I am happy in thinking that maybe she got a chance to live the kind of life she may have been best suited for I do wish we would have had a bit more time to spend with the animated and lively Miss Finch that came alive when she was discussing something she was passionate about.

    I think it is the heartbreak in Tori Amos' music that makes me like it so much still today. Most if not all of Little Earthquakes is agonizingly beautiful. I never found the songs of Strange Little Girls to touch me the way her other music did. Certainly the lyrical prowess is still there, but musically I don't connect with them the way I do with so much of her other music.

    You are not alone in mentioning the sadness of Harlequin Valentine. Its funny because I feel so much the opposite way about it. I see both characters ultimately being very happy at the end with their reversal of roles. Love how Gaiman's stories can elicit such opposite reactions.

  3. Finally, someone else who read the sadness in "Harlequin"! lol. I read it was a certain melancholia to it, too, but it didn't keep me from loving the story completely.

    "dreary and depressing" - that's what you thought of "Strange Little Girls"?! I mean, I'm a big fan more because of Amos's album than I am of Gaiman's stories for it, but I still think these are little gems of character studies. Gaiman makes such good characters, it's interesting to see what he does with a character that someone else has already created.

    I really didn't like "Miss Finch", but I really do think I just missed something along the way. I mean, I loved the circus aspect, and all the doors, but everything else just fell flat for me. It's been great to see what everyone else has to say though, because it's definitely pointing out some of the depth I didn't see before.

    When I was in elementary school orchestra (the only "D" I ever got was in this class, by the way, because I refused to practice my violin) we learned Ever Good Boy Deserves Fudge (EGBDF) in addition to FACE. I can't believe I still remember that after all these years!

    Can't wait to hear what you have to say next week.
    - Chelsea

  4. After all the talk about Tori Amos I spent a good hour in front of YouTube last night, indulging in listening to many of my absolute favorite Tori Amos songs. It had been too long. She is amazing.

  5. I need to listen to Tori Amos so that I can understand the stories this week better...

    I didn't think that HV was too sad. I mean, it ended on a somber note, but I like to think that this wont' be Harlequin's only switch. I can understand why it's sad--love shouldn't suck the joy out of life, but rather do the opposite--but at the same time, I think the whole cannibalism thing overshadowed any sadness I felt. I was just like "Woah, wait... what?!?"

  6. My family would probably say that if someone describes something as sad, or dreary and depressing, then I will probably like it. But I didn't find the Harlequin story at all sad - more as delightfully quirky and quite optimistic, because I thought it was going to go on and on, the roles always being passed down to the next person. And Harlequin is so full of mischief.

  7. Kailana - It was definitely a nice break. :)

    Carl - That's it! Thanks for the flashback! And I like the way that you thought of the story as an extension of a childhood memory. I would have liked more of Miss Finch's good side too.

    Wereadtoknow - I'm glad I wasn't alone in seeing the sadness in Harlequin, even though I was alone with Strange Little Girls. ;)

    Carl - I listened to Tori after the discussion too and sort of fell back in love with some of her stuff. :)

    Bookswithoutanypictures - And I thought the cannibalism thing was just totally mean and spiteful and unrelated to love -- which made it a strange choice.

    Geraniumcat - Wow. I would not have gone for "optimistic"! Just goes to show how we all read our own lives into the stories.

  8. I like reading short story collections because it lets me break a book over time.

    Kitchen Benchtops