Fragile Things Groupread, Week 5

Welcome to week five of the Fragile Things groupread, hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings as a part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge.

I was particularly excited about this week’s selections, as there were two poems!

The picture to the left is the cover of the Polish edition of the book.  I think it’s pretty cool, and it’s my favorite of the cover art that I’ve seen thus far for “Fragile Things.”

As per usual, there aren’t any set discussion questions, so I’ll just talk about each story and wrap up with any concluding thoughts that I may have.  Please be sure to visit the other bloggers’ pages who are also participating in the groupread.

From this point forward, there may be spoilers.  Enjoy!

Locks

I like this one!  It’s about a father telling his daughter the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, while reminiscing about the nature of innocence and the way that some things go over her head.  He remembers his own childhood and his own mistakes in life, and realizes that his daughter will have to make her own mistakes and have her own experiences.  My favorite line in the poem was this:

The bears go upstairs hesitantly,

their house now feels desecrated.  They realize

what locks are for.

I must admit, I do know the feeling.  In college, we weren’t as meticulous as we could have been about locking our door, and at the end of my senior year our room was burglarized as I was taking a nap in the other room.  Based upon my own reactions at the time (“But I was at home!  Why would I need to lock the door if I’m here!?”), I can just imagine Papa Bear thinking to himself, “But it’s the middle of the frickin’ woods!  There just aren’t PEOPLE here!  How in God’s name did this happen!?!”

The Problem of Susan

This one was also excellent.  I also used to wonder about Susan, and why Lewis just cut her out of the stories like that for showing some signs of growing up (and one can read into it that C.S. Lewis was trying to say that Susan couldn’t come to Narnia because she started thinking about sex).  I liked Gaiman’s version of Susan better.  She grew up, and she remembered.  I like thinking of her as a professor.  It just feels right.  However, I’m not going to be able to think of Aslan and the White Witch in the same way ever again…

Instructions

I didn’t care for this one quite as much as the first two this week.  It’s a poem that gives common sense instructions for characters who find themselves in a fantasy world.  I think many fantasy characters could benefit from it.  You know that feeling, when you’re reading a fantasy book, and the hero is about to do something incredibly stupid that breaks the generally established rules that every five-year-old knows?  Yup.  I also liked the way that this poem tied itself to “October in the Chair.”

How Do You Think It Feels?

The narrator’s a bit of a jerk, isn’t he?  I couldn’t sympathize with him, largely because he didn’t think of the effects of his actions on anyone but himself.  I felt bad for his kids.

Concluding Thoughts

I loved the first two selections this week, although the second two were a bit off.  The first two stories dealt primarily with plot holes, or obvious criticism of established stories.  That line in “Locks” about locking the door made me laugh, as did the way Gaiman reflected on the connotations of “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!”  However, I think “The Problem With Susan” was probably my favorite, because I did wonder even the first time I read the Narnia books what Susan did to get herself excluded from Narnia forever.  To me, it seemed as if Lewis was letting his religious views ruin his story and being overly preachy in the way that he dealt with her character.  Religious allegory isn’t a bad thing in a story, but there is a point where it becomes too much, and engulfs the story that you’ve created.  I liked the way that Gaiman returned to Susan, showing that she wasn’t a terrible person, she just grew up.  Overall, I enjoyed this week’s selections a lot, and am excited to read more!

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Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror/Gothic, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Fragile Things Groupread, Week 5

  1. I really enjoyed both of the poems this week, which surprised me! I am not much of a poem reader… I didn’t like the other two stories quite as much, though.

  2. Hi!

    I found your blog via Book Blogs and really love it! I have become a follower.

    I’m fairly new to blogging and would love it if you came and checked mine out as well.

    Thanks,

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

    http://www.storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com

  3. I liked Susan being a professor too – as you say, it felt right. And I felt very sad for what she’d had to deal with. It was a story I *could* have loved, but then I disliked the bits about the lion and the witch so much that it was spoilt for me. I think I’ll have to make myself read it again to see if I’m missing something. And I’ve just remembered that I did like it when God said he hadn’t created Mary Poppins! But at least I did love both the poems, which made up for not liking both the stories.

    • I also felt bad for her. It would be awful to have to deal with the aftermath of the tragic train crash.

      I didn’t mind the Aslan scene (although I was a bit creeped out by it, largely because lion on female is a bit odd). I understood what Gaiman was trying to say with it. At the same time, it takes a lot to offend me, and I can see why a lot of people didn’t like it.

      I love the weeks for the readalong that there are poems! =D

  4. That is a really cool cover image. I like it. If I read could read the language I would be tempted to buy a copy for my collection.

    How scary for you! I think I would feel so violated and so vulnerable if something like that happened while I was in the house. Yikes. Glad you were not harmed.

    Locks is a very effective and wonderful poem. It conveys so much in such a small amount of space. It is a poem that I connect with so deeply because of my own role as a father with a daughter, now grown.

    I think the link Kristen included in her post about The Problem with Susan so brilliantly captures my problems with this story that I wish I had found it before writing my post as I would have just linked to it instead. That blogger captures my feelings perfectly.

    Instructions is one of my favorite poems, period. Just love all the imagery it stirs up in my imagination and it speaks to both the young me and the adult me who both have loved and taken to fairy tales in different ways.

    The protagonist in “How” was one that is was not easy to empathize with and I do not like him at all. I think the story is very effective in what it is trying to say and I give Gaiman kudos for that, but it makes me sad.

    • I wish I could read in more languages… even reading in Russian is incredibly slow for me.

      Thankfully, I was in a bedroom when the burglary happened, and whomever did it didn’t open my bedroom door. I was mostly frustrated at myself for not waking up, as my roommates’ laptops were taken and it was the middle of finals week.

      I think that a big part of what makes “Locks” so beautiful is the way that the father realizes that the daughter is an individual and will make her own mistakes and learn from them.

      I liked “Instructions,” it just wasn’t my favorite compared to the others, and I have no idea why. I really like the concept… I may have to re-read it.

  5. I definitely know what you mean about the heroes/heroines in some fantasy books. So dumb you just want to shake them. Haven’t they read Grimm’s fairy tales?? Haha.

    I also liked the idea of Susan being a literature professor that focused on children’s literature. I guess if you had the opportunity to be in Narnia once, you’d want to spend a lot of time reading about places that were similar.

    • Yeah. It’s as if she’s dedicated her life to studying what she experienced as a child, and trying to make sense of it. It’s as if she believes in the magic of children’s literature to the extent that it lives long after she’s been disillusioned of other beliefs, or has matured. That’s what I got out of it at the point where God admits that he didn’t create Mary Poppins, lol. It’s as if the magic of childhood defies all convention and explanation, it just is.

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