Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Writing for writers

Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things is a little gem of a book. It's a collection of short stories and poetry, most of which has been published elsewhere. There's some stories here which are absolute masterpieces - notably A Study in Emerald which explores the world of Sherlock Holmes in a brilliant pastiche. Other great pieces include The facts in the Strange Departure of Miss Finch and The Problem of Susan. There's a couple of really good poems and a story with my favorite title - How to talk to Girls at Parties.

That, however isn't the defining part of the book. The book comes with a long preface where Gaiman explores the how, where, why and what of the story. By providing more detail about each story's provenance and the circumstances around writing it, Gaiman in his inimitable way manages to make the book more than what it is. He gives us an insight into his creative process.

Neil Gaiman is proficient at creating his own worlds. The Sandman series, his atmospheric American Gods, the magical Stardust and Anansi Boys prove that beyond a doubt. But in this series, instead of working with a huge canvas, Gaiman paints smaller, more intimate word pictures.

The child on the way home from school passing a haunted house. Four men narrating ghost tales in a club. In addition, he even manages to find himself in a box with a smaller area to work with - writing a piece for a Doyle meets H P Lovecraft short story collection ( resulting in A Study in Emerald) or another inventive, fun piece based in the world of The Matrix films (written on the basis of the original screenplay to go on the official website before the film was released).

Celebrating writing in every genre in every which way, Gaiman channels his creative genius and somehow manages to, through his writing (which is uneven) and his exposition (which is personable and inviting), inspire. Traveling with him, being creative doesn't seem so daunting anymore.

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