Welcome to week two of the Fragile Things Groupread, hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. The Groupread is also a part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, in which readers and bloggers share their thoughts on spooky stories.
As with last week, there are no set discussion questions, so I’ll just talk a bit about each of the four stories that we’re reading this week. From this point hence, there may be spoilers.
The Hidden Chamber
Deliciously creepy. The poem is based upon one of Perrault’s fairy tales about a nobleman who murders his wives. I had never heard of Bluebeard’s tale before, although upon looking it up it seemed vaguely familiar. Gaiman tells the story from Bluebeard’s perspective upon the arrival of a new wife. I found it eerie that Bluebeard went out of his way to rescue a butterfly while plotting his wife’s demise. It was a perfect way to frame his lack of sanity.
Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire
Facetious nonsense. Luckily, I happen to enjoy facetious nonsense. In this story, Gaiman reverses fantasy and reality. The main character is a writer in a world where horror is the norm, and can’t seem to write anything without making fun of it. Embedded in the story are the unnamed narrator’s writings. Eventually, a raven advises him that they are garbage, and that the reason why he can’t write anything good is because he is bored with reality. He then writes about a woman who realizes while making toast one morning that she is dissatisfied and unfulfilled with her marriage. I thought that reversing fantasy and reality was pretty cool. It makes readers realize that what is considered to be “normal” is incredibly subjective, and makes us think about our own world in a fresh way.
The Flints of Memory Lane
I found this one to be a bit unsatisfying, although I suppose that that is the point that Gaiman was trying to make–that real life doesn’t always mold itself in the way that a good story does.
Out of all the stories this week, this was my favorite. The story resembles a story-within-a-story, beginning with a few people sitting around drinking and telling ghost stories. The narrator then tells his own ghost story from his childhood. I enjoyed the way that Gaiman described childhood adventures, especially the way the boy’s mother reacted when he said the word “fuck.” Gaiman vividly portrayed being one of the neighborhood kids in a realistic way that I think most grown-ups forget. I found myself recalling similar events from my own childhood (not creepy door-knocker things, although I did find it interesting that the boy had drawn a picture at school of a house with a demonic door knocker. Coincidence?). Every school has its ghost stories, and every town has houses that all the kids are afraid of. I would have probably dismissed the ghost story as imagination paired with a practical joke if it weren’t for the old man at the end. I’m curious as to what was in the playhouse.
I’ve loved both of the Gaiman poems that we’ve read thus far, and I can’t wait to read more. The chilling story-within-a-story framework is also something that Gaiman does quite well; I enjoyed “Closing Time” and “The October Chair” for similar reasons. Thus far, I’ve been liking most of the stories in this collection and am quite glad to be doing the groupread!