Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smoke and mirrors, Neil Gaiman

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion . . . and anything is possible. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman's imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

Smoke and Mirrors

I think that this book was a great collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. I always love his writing style, as you may or may not know, he's got one of the best voices of the 21st century. This book did contain some stories that me--a nineteen year old girl--didn't really enjoy reading all that much, I think I skipped only one though. For the most part, tried to read them even if they didn't really appeal to me. 

Some of the reviews or notes about each separate story will contain spoilers so just beware. 

To see my thoughts on each separate story look below: BEWARE SPOILERS. 
As well, a post about Murder Mysteries will be up soon. 

The Marriage Present: 
Oh, wow. Okay, so, occasionally, ideas from this story have come back to me. The main one being: giving up. Now to some degree I feel that meaning we find within writing isn’t necessarily what the author intended to created, no matter if they meant to place it within the sentences of a story or not, we find it there. And that is kind of what matters. I finally understand what John Green said about books belonging to the readers not authors. 
I feel that when the MC threw the letter into the fire and 'waiting for the scar to appear' meant that she had given up who she was as a person, it was her, falling and resolving to stay fallen. On the other hand, as it was hinted in the beginning of the story, it could also be that the letter is in fact another reality—the real one, or if it isn’t, it was the wife’s decision which reality to live in, and by her resolving to burn the letter, she was choosing the other reality, where her marriage sucked, but her husband was alive. 

On the other hand, it could be neither of those and it could simply be metaphorical, it could be that when she was waiting for the scar to appear, she was simply waiting to heal from the sudden death of her husband. 

This story is a quick little story about the Holy Grail. It is actually kind of funny in its simplicity; this story is about a retired women who buys the Holy Grail at a second hand store, and in turn meets a knight that is on a quest to recover the Holy Grail. It is a quick read—alright. No overly strong feelings towards this story, though quite often it did make me laugh. There is one part where the women who bought it is telling her friends about how she bought the Holy Grail, the cup that caught Jesus' blood, if your Grandma said that to you, you'd probably just dismiss it, yet this actually turns out to be the Holy Grail. The idea is just hilarious because it is something I could actually see my grandma saying or bragging about. 

Nicholas was…: 
This story is the true story of St. Nicholas; a man forced into a form of slavery, forced to conform to the whims of these small creatures that dress him up and shove him in a sled. 

What an awesome take on the whole Santa Clause myth. Haha, your parents lied to you boys and girls. It was funny in the way that it was so unlike anything else I’ve heard about old St. Nick, but also quite tragic if you really think of it. 

The Price:
This was a very cool story—I liked that it wasn’t the women who was obsessed with cats, but the man—it’s different. I like that it was a story about a fierce Guardian Angel cat. I liked the build up to the height of the mystery as well. Also, I was really worried about that poor cat. 

Troll Bridge:
Wildly distributing, this was very good. It is about the Troll that lives under the bridge, I loved the ending as well, did not like the main character until the end actually when he chose to just watch the people—though yes, it was still perverted but better than the alternative—cursing another kid to become the next troll.

Don’t Ask Jack:
This was awesome—one of the creepiest ones within the book I think. About a Jack-in-the-box that holds some special secrets. I’d read more stories following up from this one, it was really good. 

The Goldfish Pool and other stories:
Pretty good—it was partly true, which parts, I don’t really know—your guess is as good as mine—unless you’re actually Neil Gaiman, in which case, you know. 

The White Road and Queen of Knives:
Both were equally disturbing. The White Road was about a Mrs. Fox, a predator who manages to kill an innocent man, though you're led to believe that it is the man that is the fox. The Queen of Knives was about a strange couple—it had a twist at the end, even with the Spoilers warning at the top of this review I don’t want to spoil it, I would like to know who got it though--message me. Both were very good.

Meh. Not too crazy about this story. 

The Daughter of Owls:
Such a creepy story but it was so awesome at the same time—loved it and kind of hated it because of what the men from the village wanted to do to the little girl, but at the same time, wish for this instead of what happens in reality.

Shaggots Old Peculiar:
Pretty good—I liked it. 

I loved this one, I thought it everything about it was really cool and it can have multiple meanings. Here’s a verse that sticks out to me, I’m hoping it will inspire you to read this, also pay attention to the meaning behind it, and let me know what you think it means. I'd love to hear your interpretations. (God, do I sound like a school teacher? I swear I'm not.) I honestly think that there could be a few different ways it could be interpreted when compared to different aspects of our culture. 

‘Well aren’t you? Aren’t you scared of viruses? 
Even the better protected files corrupt,
And the best protected corrupt absolutely.’

Though taken at face value the meaning is quite clear, to me, this reminds me of how imperfect perfection is. Someone with the seemingly perfect life--beautiful house, kids, wife/husband, ect...can be very corrupted, the passage above reminded me of that--it says something about society as well. You can call me whatever you want for looking into this poem with so much depth, but there was more meaning here than you may think. 

This story was basically about hell being in the internet; hell basically runs the world now, you can even visit any family members who were, either fortunately or unfortunately sent to hell, and watch them receive their punishment. It was quite disturbing and just weird, how the world worked. You could really tell how traumatized the persona of this poem was—he was pretty much scared and distrusting of everything. Which, you know, considering he lives in hell, is understandable. 

The Sweeper of Dreams:
:( I don’t like the sweeper who takes away the castles, the glory and the madness of my dreams—though sometimes waking can be a blessing. 
This kind of makes me want to you know, buy doughnuts for this fictional Sweeper of Dreams. As in, I love you, don't leave me in a world of Nightmares please! 
The man that sweeps up the remains of your dreams demands respect or else he won't come back, and you will live everyday in a nightmare that will never end, locked away in a mental institution. 

Not only is this story really short—it is pretty powerful as well, creepy and borderline scary—just the alternative presented within this story is enough to make anyone want to go out of their way to make small talk with anyone holding a broom. 

Foreign Parts: 
…Ah, yeah….
Not my favorite. Didn't really like it—I guess in some ways it was funny but it was just weird. Maybe a guy would appreciate this more. 
About some guy who gets a STD, is cured and finds out that his parts aren’t his. 

Vampire Sestina:
Really good—beautiful prose and imagery in this. 

Freaky short story—though the guy was a total ass, by ass, I of course mean Donkey. I mean, sure, at first he doesn’t seem too bad—but then the way he treated his wife when she finally started talking? Well, that was just nasty. 

Sea Change:
A story about madness. 
And I loved it. 

When we went to see the end of the world, by Dawine Morningside, age 11 ¼:
This was interesting. A paper written by a small girl who went to see the end of the world with her parents. This was confusing to be honest. 

Desert Wind:
This was a story inspired by a song, I think I would appreciate it more if I knew or had listened to the song beforehand. I’ll probably check it out sooner or later though. 

Kinda skipped over this after reading the opening paragraph. 

Humans tested on animals, ate them, devoured them, and were somehow surprised when they left—or disappeared. And in a world without animals what is a human to do? Of course there is sudden mayhem and chaos brought on by people who don’t have what they usually do. No safe products and food, so what do they use? Babies. Yeah, well, what’s so wrong about this is that it actually seems likely—if the events in this story were to take place, somehow the animals were all gone—or dead, what would humans do? Go after the next weakest mammals. 

Murder Mysteries: 
This is my favorite story—it completely blew my mind, so much so that I've dedicated an entire blog entry to it. It was just...well read my post to find out. :) 

Snow, Glass and Apples: 
Haha, what a twist on the tale of Snow White. I love it! 

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