Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Published by: Headline, 2015
Review copy provided by Pansing Books. Book photos taken by me.
While I have read most of Gaiman’s picturebooks, graphic novels, full-length novels, this is the first time that I am reading a short story collection done by him. And just like all short story collections, there are a few that I absolutely adored and a few that were just okay. What makes this compendium unique, perhaps, is that it not only contains a few stories that are already published independently (it includes The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains illustrated by Eddie Campbell and The Sleeper and the Spindle illustrated by Chris Riddell), it also has a few poetry inserted in-between the ‘short fictions.’ There are 24 titles in all in this collection, and one story that is specifically written by Gaiman for this collection: “Black Dog” which revisits Shadow Moon from The American Gods.
What I especially loved about this collection, though, is Gaiman’s thorough Introduction where he hand-holds his reader into knowing about his creative process, his thoughts about the significance of disturbing tales, and little snippets of what was going on in his life as he wrote each story. It is the kind of Introduction that fills the soul as Gaiman gently whispers his secrets in the reader’s ear, shedding light into his pockets of darknesses, and quietly soothing and easing the reader into free-falling within the pages – there is kindness here in Gaiman’s tone mixed with pride in his craft and his capacity to embrace the uncanny alongside the banal, the weird along with the mundane. He also explained quite lengthily why he called this collection Trigger Warning – I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app:
Among all the stories, a few stood out for me such as The Thing About Cassandra which shows an alternate reality whereby the loves we invented as a teenager actually take a life of their own – what do you do if a person you invented during your adolescent years become “real” as you reach adulthood? Then there is The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury which brought me to around three years back when I could not stop reading the man – so I am glad to know about the many allusions embedded in Gaiman’s tribute to the master storyteller himself. Jerusalem with its haunting feeling of homesickness/homelessness wrapped up in an old blanket that characterizes the Jerusalem syndrome which apparently, is a real thing. Click-Clack the Rattlebag should not be read in the middle of the night, when you are home alone, and the rains are pouring outside in the dark. Nothing O’Clock is Gaiman’s contribution to a Doctor Who episode – which was an enjoyable and quick read. Black Dog had the feel of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains with vengeance festering in one’s heart and the ghosts of one’s past coming back to haunt you.
My absolute favourite though is the poem Witch Work which simply moved me. I took a photo of the last few lines and edited it using an iPhone app:
If you are still looking for that book to give to your loved ones this Christmas, give them a bit of Gaiman’s poison – don’t worry, it comes with an antidote – just read the Introduction.