Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

by Neil Gaiman

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A mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night . . .

Two teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams—and nightmares . . .

In a Hugo Award–winning story, a great detective must solve a most unsettling royal murder in a strangely altered Victorian England . . .

These marvelous creations and more showcase the unparalleled invention and storytelling brilliance—and the terrifyingly dark and entertaining wit—of the incomparable Neil Gaiman. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most original writers of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060515232
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/09/2010
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 76,241
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the author of The Graveyard Book, which is the only novel to be awarded both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. He is also the winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

November 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

Portchester, England


Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77

Read an Excerpt

Fragile Things

Short Fictions and Wonders

By Neil Gaiman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Neil Gaiman

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060515228

Chapter One

A Study in Emerald

I. The New Friend

Fresh from Their Stupendous European Tour, where they performed before several of the crowned heads of Europe, garnering their plaudits and praise with magnificent dramatic performances, combining both comedy and tragedy, the Strand Players wish to make it known that they shall be appearing at the Royal Court Theatre, Drury Lane, for a limited engagement in April, at which they will present My Look Alike Brother Tom!, The Littlest Violet Seller and The Great Old Ones Come (this last an Historical Epic of Pageantry and Delight); each an entire play in one act! Tickets are available now from the Box Office.

It is the immensity, I believe. The hugeness of things below. The darkness of dreams.

But I am woolgathering. Forgive me. I am not a literary man.

I had been in need of lodgings. That was how I met him. I wanted someone to share the cost of rooms with me. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, in the chemical laboratories of St. Bart's. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive," that was what he said to me, and my mouth fell open and my eyes opened very wide.

"Astonishing," I said.

"Not really," said the stranger inthe white lab coat, who was to become my friend. "From the way you hold your arm, I see you have been wounded, and in a particular way. You have a deep tan. You also have a military bearing, and there are few enough places in the Empire that a military man can be both tanned and, given the nature of the injury to your shoulder and the traditions of the Afghan cave folk, tortured."

Put like that, of course, it was absurdly simple. But then, it always was. I had been tanned nut brown. And I had indeed, as he had observed, been tortured.

The gods and men of Afghanistan were savages, unwilling to be ruled from Whitehall or from Berlin or even from Moscow, and unprepared to see reason. I had been sent into those hills, attached to the--th Regiment. As long as the fighting remained in the hills and mountains, we fought on an equal footing. When the skirmishes descended into the caves and the darkness then we found ourselves, as it were, out of our depth and in over our heads.

I shall not forget the mirrored surface of the underground lake, nor the thing that emerged from the lake, its eyes opening and closing, and the singing whispers that accompanied it as it rose, wreathing their way about it like the buzzing of flies bigger than worlds.

That I survived was a miracle, but survive I did, and I returned to England with my nerves in shreds and tatters. The place that leech like mouth had touched me was tattooed forever, frog white, into the skin of my now withered shoulder. I had once been a crack shot. Now I had nothing, save a fear of the world beneath the world akin to panic, which meant that I would gladly pay sixpence of my army pension for a Hansom cab rather than a penny to travel underground.

Still, the fogs and darknesses of London comforted me, took me in. I had lost my first lodgings because I screamed in the night. I had been in Afghanistan; I was there no longer.

"I scream in the night," I told him.

"I have been told that I snore," he said. "Also I keep irregular hours, and I often use the mantelpiece for target practice. I will need the sitting room to meet clients. I am selfish, private, and easily bored. Will this be a problem?"

I smiled, and I shook my head, and extended my hand. We shook on it.

The rooms he had found for us, in Baker Street, were more than adequate for two bachelors. I bore in mind all my friend had said about his desire for privacy, and I forbore from asking what it was he did for a living. Still, there was much to pique my curiosity. Visitors would arrive at all hours, and when they did I would leave the sitting room and repair to my bedroom, pondering what they could have in common with my friend: the pale woman with one eye bone white, the small man who looked like a commercial traveler, the portly dandy in his velvet jacket, and the rest. Some were frequent visitors, many others came only once, spoke to him, and left, looking troubled or looking satisfied.

He was a mystery to me.

We were partaking of one of our landlady's magnificent breakfasts one morning, when my friend rang the bell to summon that good lady. "There will be a gentleman joining us, in about four minutes," he said. "We will need another place at table."

"Very good," she said, "I'll put more sausages under the grill."

My friend returned to perusing his morning paper. I waited for an explanation with growing impatience. Finally, I could stand it no longer. "I don't understand. How could you know that in four minutes we would be receiving a visitor? There was no telegram, no message of any kind."

He smiled, thinly. "You did not hear the clatter of a brougham several minutes ago? It slowed as it passed us--obviously as the driver identified our door, then it sped up and went past, up into the Marylebone Road. There is a crush of carriages and taxicabs letting off passengers at the railway station and at the waxworks, and it is in that crush that anyone wishing to alight without being observed will go. The walk from there to here is but four minutes. . . ."

He glanced at his pocket watch, and as he did so I heard a tread on the stairs outside.

"Come in, Lestrade," he called. "The door is ajar, and your sausages are just coming out from under the grill."


Excerpted from Fragile Things
by Neil Gaiman
Copyright © 2006 by Neil Gaiman.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fragile Things 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 221 reviews.
sara_lusa More than 1 year ago
I'm really rather torn on this one. In many respects I love Neil Gaiman. He's an excellent writer with a wonderful twist of the imagination. And no one writes a delicately creepy story like he does. I enjoyed much of Fragile Things immensely. But I could really do without the occasional sexual perversions. The kind that sicken you and leave the after-images burned into your brain. So, it's up to you. There are some great stories and poems in there (several of which I'll probably bring to read around the campfire this summer), but I thought I'd give fair warning.
paganmeghan More than 1 year ago
Delicately crafted beautiful stories that resonate deeply. Unknown depths within. Every piece is a winner, but I specifically liked the Vampire Tarot, the Epicurean Club, and Strange Little Girls. He's one of the most gifted writers of this century and this collection only disappoints when it ends. Marvelous, literally filled with marvels. Wonderful, literally filled with wonders. Like an exquisite box of chocolates; a sensual journey in each bite but very different, each to each.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I adore Neil Gaiman and was deeply moved by this collection. I have often said Neil is a master storyteller and this stands as testament to that. His imagery is truly inspiring and beautiful. Some stories made me giggle childishly, others made me weep, others I had to read twice to fully comprehend their depth, some chilled me to the soul and others simply made me dream. The poetry was fun and wonderful. This is a must have book, not just for gaiman fans but anyone who simply enjoys good stories.
Mycroft More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy Ray Bradbury you will enjoy Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things: a short story collection for the unusual. There is a tale about two young men who meet the most unusual women at a party to Susan from C.L. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to Strange Little Girls which pay homage to a song (peformed by Tori Amos). Some stories were a little to follow but in any collection there is always one or two that may leave the reader perplexed. A good read with the tale of the "Twilight Zone" thrown in.
bellypenguin More than 1 year ago
Great book by a great Author. I love everything Neil Gaiman has ever done.
KatrinaO More than 1 year ago
Some people always used to tell me that I was a bit odd with the things I like. :) Fragile Things is one of those things.. and I absolutely, terribly LOVE it. :) I am always blown away by Neil Gaiman’s works and this copy never failed me, yet again. :) Mesmerizing, chilling and bewilderedly eccentric. This definitely swept me off your feet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of short stories especially when I'm chasing a toddler. Easy to put down and come back to and jump right back in. Interedting enough to even hold my attention. Good read overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful group of short stories blending science fiction , fantasy, and the wonderment of life. Mr. Gaiman's voice and love of storytelling speaks through every one. These stories are a pleasure to read, eerily frightening, tender, and amazing .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this is the best collection I have read since Fitzgerald and Hughes
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Gaiman shows us once again that he is the master of many mediums with his latest collection of short stories. Very highly recommended. I read each of the stories in utter awe.
Anonymous 11 months ago
worldsedge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A decidedly mixed bag from Gaiman in this collection. "A Study in Emerald" was superb, ditto "Talking to Girls at Parties." Harlequin Valentine" was good, but rather derivative. Did not particularly care for the ("The Monarch of the Glen", I guess b/c it did not rise to the level of American Gods. Gaiman's narration was suprisingly good, he has a good speaking voice and it worked well with these stories.
spacecommuter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Better to read the stories first and skip the introduction. He acknowledges that many of these were written on spec as favors to friends, in charitable support of worthy causes, or because he had an itch in the back of his skull. In short - it's a collection of novelties written in between his larger and weightier projects. Yet all of them are readable and have merit. I'm not sure if "15 Painted Cards From a Vampire Tarot" is actually poetic and thought-provoking or if it's just a stimulating exercise, but it has gone on to inspire the artists and perfumers at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and certainly isn't long enough to be boring. I only got halfway through the book before I put it down, but the book makes that easy - the stories are not connected thematically, and the reader is not on a journey. You can pick it up and put it down easily and not feel lost. I think established Gaiman fans will like being tickled by this book, but I think people new to Gaiman should start with his long novels and illustrated books so they can figure out why we all love him so much.
devenish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is Neil Gaiman's second collection of short stories and his poorest book to date.Let us pick over the bones (heh heh) and see what we can make of this body of work.A Study in Emerald is excellent,but has already appeared in Shadows over Baker Street (which is readily available.The Fairy Reel -this and the other poetry I will ignore as,let's face it,it is not very good at all.October in the Chair is quite a clever story,which doesn't however take us very far.Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire.Crikey ! The title is nearly a short story in itself.Now this one I did like.Not a lot of funny horror stories about are there.Other People.Yes,this is also a good one A story straight from Hell !Harlequin Valentine. Sad-Quite liked it I suppose.The Problems of Susan. A new take on Narnia,and a somewhat unpleasant one at that.Feeders and Eaters. The title says it allGoliath. A tie-in with the Matrix trilogy of films.If you haven't seen them,don't bother to read this,it won't make sense.The Monarch of the Glen. For me the best of the lot.This is a follow-up to American Gods and the longest story in the collection.As for the rest-a poor sad lot.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
26 (very) short stories and a novella "Monach of the Glen" from the American Gods universe. From the back cover "All are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings ... move you to the very depths of your soul" the last line is overdoing it somewhat but it captures the quirky sense of all the tales. The opening story is a strange Sherlock pastiche, others feature just poems or more connected tales. My favourite is probably "how to talk to girls at parties" which was weird, but fun. Others are darker and more disturbing. More fantasy and less connected than Jeff Noon's "Pixel juice" it somehow captures the same spirit of quirky sideways glances at the world around us. There are re-occuring characters, but not as a continual thread. "The Monarch of the Glen" - the novella set a couple of years after american gods - was good enough that I shall consider buying American Gods when I see it.A must have for Gaiman fans, and a pretty good offering for any lover of the short story format, I found it darker than I prefer to read, and won't often be re-reading it. Few of the stories, genuinally caused me to stop and ponder, the way C J Cherryh continually does.
brianclegg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A superb set of short stories that rivals Gene Wolfe in cleverness, but is often less obscure than Wolfe. Inevitably one or two duds, but so many little gems.
queen_evie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pure brilliance, each story was round and whole even though they're short. Gaiman has the imagination of a 5 year old with the vocabulary of a walking dictionary. He pinpoints things perfectly with words, his stories take you everywhere from seedy London clubs to the depths of hell, to teenage alien parties. I look forward to reading more of Gaiman's work. He is a consummate storyteller.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book which may have done it a disservice because I didn't "get" some of the stories. Neil Gaiman read it himself and he did a pretty good job. I would really have liked it if he had done the short introduction for each story right before the story itself instead of at the beginning of the book. By the time the story rolled around I had forgotten what he said about it whereas if I had been reading the real book I could have flipped back to the introduction.There is no doubt that Gaiman is talented and he can write in a number of genres. Some of the stories were fascinating but the ones that leaned toward the horror genre were not my cup of tea.I'll read more Gaiman but I'll steer away from anything that smacks of horror.
sheherazahde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a collection of short stories and poems by Neil Gaiman. Mr Gaiman has mentioned that he does not like to write novel length horror stories because he does not want to live anywhere that dark for the length of time it would be necessary to write a novel. Reading all these stories at once is bit like living in a very dark place for much too long. So I recommend reading them slowly over time. They are too good to pass up altogether. "A Study in Emerald" is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and H. P Lovecraft. Specifically, Holmes investigates the murder of a child of the Elder Gods. A bit of a surprize ending for the Holmes fans. The newspaper ads at the chapter heading are a bit of fun too. "The Fairy Reel" is a poem and a warning about playing with fairies. A bit sad. Mr. Gaiman recommends reading it aloud. "October in the Chair" is about the monthly meeting of the Months. They tell stories to each other. They are not all good story tellers. It is a bit disturbing. Mr Gaiman calls it "a sort of dry run" for "The Graveyard Book" "The Hidden Chamber" a gothic poem from Bluebeard to his wife. "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" one of Mr. Gaiman's younger works. A bit silly. About the problems of being an author in a gothic universe. "The Flints of Memory Lane" a real life ghost story. And all the more disturbing for being so. "Closing Time" another story that could be true. A disturbing story about childhood. "Going Wodwo" a Green Man poem."Bitter Grounds" a disturbing story about being undead and lost in America. "Other People" Mr Gaiman had originally titled this story "Afterlife". An editor retitled it. An ironic reference to the Jean-Paul Sartre quote "hell is other people" since in this story hell is definitely not other people. "Keepsakes and Treasures: A Love Story" Mr Smith works for Mr Alice. They are both very bad men who do very bad things. But Mr Alice has a lot of money and Mr Smith is very good at his job. Not people you would ever want to meet. "Good Boys Deserve Favors" A story of childhood music lessons and magic. "Good double bass players... were men who made poor husbands." So it is just as well that the narrator does not become a good double bass player. "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Ms Finch" Ms Finch disappears one night at the circus, and I think we can see why but how is another matter. We learn the facts of the case but not really the answers to any questions. "Strange Little Girls" written for the liner notes for a Tori Amos CD. Nice to have in a collection if you obsessive about these things. But not very satisfying as stories. "Harlequin Valentine" A retelling of the traditional Harlequin story with a rather literal twist on the theme of giving your heart away. "Locks" a poem about Goldilocks and the Three Bears as a metaphor for parenthood. "The Problem of Susan" What happened to Susan after the Narnia books were over. I rather like Mr Gaiman's theory."Instructions" another poem. Instructions for how to get in and out of Fairy. "How Do You Think It Feels?" a gargoyle story and a another bit of chilling horror about the danger of guarding your heart too closely."My Life" a funny little poem about a strange little life. Another one that is good to read out loud."Fifteen Painted Cards From a Vampire Tarot" Exactly what it says it is. Fifteen very short descriptions of vampire tarot cards. He makes some interesting points. What would "The Devil" or "The Sun" mean to vampires?"Feeders and Eaters" a horror story about compassion and the lack of it. Some fates are worse than death."Diseasemaker's Croup" a description of a disease that disrupts the sufferers ability to think coherently. Written by someone suffering from the disease, and therefore a bit incoherent."In the End" the last book of the Bible. Genesis in reverse. Funny. "Goliath" a story set in the universe from "The Matrix" movies, bu
bethlovesbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing stuff here for short works. Some eerie, some real horror, some pure fun, some fantasy that will leave you thinking long after. A GREAT variety of works that really showcase Gaiman's talent. I can't pick one favorite, though there are a couple I'm not as fond of - but with 31 pieces included this volume is MORE than worth the investment!
catalogthis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"I like things to be story-shaped."So says the narrator of The Flints of Memory Lane, one of the stories in this collection. I agree wholeheartedly.Which is why I'm only giving this a 3-star rating. Not because the writing is poor, but because so few of these stories are actually, well, story-shaped. Also, it's such a mix of genres, not all of which I enjoy... My favorite parts of this collection are the Introduction (in which Gaiman explains the genesis of each story/poem/whatnot) and the author interview at the end, in which he says: "I've never written a horror novel, and one reason I've never written a horror novel is I don't think I'd want to live in that place for eighteen months or two years. But I'm perfectly happy to visit for a weekend or a couple of weeks and get absolutely creepy and dark and nasty and strange in a way that I wouldn't want to be long-term."I'm not a fan of horror, so maybe I should stick to his novels.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was sort of bipolar on this one. The ones I loved, I really loved, and the ones I didn't, I really hated.I loved 'A Study in Emerald', the one I mentioned above, combining Sherlock Holmes and this sci-fi setting. I think the more often I reread that one, the more I will like it! Very well done.I also loved 'How to Talk to Girls at Parties', 'The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch', 'Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire' - love the title! so funny, and the last one, 'The Monarch of the Glen', which brings back the characters from American Gods briefly.But I hated the one about Susan from the Chronicles of Narnia. And I really, really hated 'Keepsakes and Treasures' - some disturbing sexual content in there that I didn't appreciate at all. I was going to give this to my daughter to read when I was done, but I know she would be very disturbed by that story, and told her so.In all, I guess I discovered that I like Gaiman when he tones it down - with his children's books, or his collaboration with others. He can be a little too graphic for me to enjoy on his own.
xicanti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neil Gaiman sneaks up on me. I'm reading along, certain that I don't much care about what's happening, when I suddenly realize that I'm speed reading because I'm so desperate to know where all this is going. It's all about the buildup. Gaiman's narratives gradually gain momentum until the story takes flight.The trouble is, Gaiman's short fiction is short. (Stating the obvious: a proud tradition). There's not always enough time for the tale to build up the momentum I need to really get into it. It becomes about the overall effect, rather than the buildup. How engaging is the story? How creative is the language? What do I think of the payoff?In most of these cases, I think it's good. Not fantastic, not breathtaking, just good. Gaiman's short fiction is entertaining, but it rarely moves me. It rarely forces me to reconsider any of my previously held views or inspires me to dig deeper into the story. It's fun, but it's fleeting.There are a few notable exceptions, though, and one of them just so happens to be in FRAGILE THINGS. "The Problem of Susan" is one of my very favourite stories. I first read it several years ago, shortly after this anthology was released. Narnia was, for many years, my favourite place that never was, and the problem of Susan always bothered me. Gaiman does such a beautiful job of discussing Susan's Afterwards that I just couldn't contain myself. I slammed the book closed and cried my eyes out.The rest of the book is very good. It's readable. It's fun. It's easy to just whip on through this, fast as anything. Gaiman plays around with some interesting premises and produces many entertaining, elegantly crafted stories and poems that display a true understanding of both modern expectations and traditional storytelling. But as far as I'm concerned, "The Problem of Susan" is the main reason this collection is so worthwhile. It's the only Gaiman story that's ever truly moved me.As a side note, I highly recommend the audio presentation. Gaiman narrates many of his own audiobooks, including this one, and he's a fantastic reader. He elevates many "just good" stories to "really bloody good." It's worth checking out.
Iralell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great, great stories. I liked the first half better than the second. I especially liked the introduction NG provides for each story.
librarianinblack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This collection of short stories and other shorter works gives readers a taste of Gaiman throughout the years. I also enjoyed the introductory text explaining each story's origins. It's that added value, the ephemera of the pieces, if you will, that give you a real glimpse of what Gaiman's life and writing process is really like. I saw him on tour for this book, and his readings of his poetry were worthy of any award-winning poet. Gaiman's flexibility as an author is evident in the wide variety in this book. Enjoy it!