Neil Gaiman: Smoke and Mirrors
I haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman, but one of my daughters has a copy of Coraline in her bookshelf. Nevertheless, he comes highly recommended from people I respect, so when I was picking over the airport bookstore in Orlando (admittedly not the most fertile of cultural hunting grounds) before an 18-hour flight to China, Smoke and Mirrors was a natural choice (actually, the only one).
The book is a collection of Gaiman’s early short stories, most of them realistically written with a slight twist of the supernatural. Each story at some point crosses into fairy-tale territory, but does it so discreetly that it seems natural and to be expected. I particularly liked Troll Bridge – about a young boy who meets a troll under a disused railway bridge – and Gold Fish Pond and other stories, which isn’t magical at all (it is a partly fictional reminiscence about a movie writer’s visit to Hollywood.) Gaiman’s stories have a certain wistfulness about them, they are stories about people who want, somehow, to escape their surroundings and eventually do.
I read Coraline to my younger sister – that’s why it’s in her bookshelf. I think it was a present. Those of my friends who are fans of Gaiman’s fiction were shocked that I was reading something he had written to a young child. Coraline is actually kind of creepy.