Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman is subtitled “Short Fictions and Wonders”, which sums up this compilation nicely. The title of this book reminds us of ourselves. Like Gaiman himself says, human beings are fragile and breakable. But stories in the book also point out that fragility does not detract from durability. We survive most of the things we expect to die of. Sometimes we expect to die of a broken heart, but even with a hurt so great, our hearts don’t stop beating. The fragile-looking translucent butterfly wings take the Monarch butterfly from Toronto, Ontario to the rain forests of Brazil. And dreams….even when they are broken they continue to live on in a secret place, somewhere within us, at times, unknown to us.
Survival is not only for the strong and the unbroken. The weak, meek, lost and fragile ones manage to find their way through the twists and turns of fate with equal dexterity. But we don’t see it happening as they do. It’s often years later when you look back; you see the wonders of survival. Like Gaiman says; “we save our lives in such unlikely ways.” This doesn’t mean that we become completely healed or our emotional turmoils are over. It means that despite it all we survive, our hearts don’t falter and our dreams are shut safely away. Being broken isn’t so bad as you think. Yes it hurts and sometimes pieces of us get lost on the way, but it reveals who we really are and what we are made of. The enduring qualities of fragility refine us and re-define us.
What I love about Gaiman is his understanding of human emotions and his non-judgmental attitude. He doesn’t pass a verdict on his characters as to who is wrong and who is right, or what is right and wrong. He observes both sides of the coin and sometimes what happens when the coin stands on its edge. He leaves the judging, perceiving and apprehending to his readers. In the book, Gaiman also reveals the strength of stories although seem fragile.
“Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas-abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken-and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things
There are some stories which can be told in fewer words but more expressively than a full-length novel. The stories and poems you find in Fragile Things are best described that way. I never felt like I was reading a short story collection. The power of emotions, intensity of feelings, the varying characters and captivating narrations run through the entire book. Story after story it opens up more gateways into thinking, understanding and being fascinated. The idea for Fragile Things came to Gaiman in a dream: “I think…that I would rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt” were the words turned up in his dream. Using “twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks” Gaiman has written “stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters” and they will certainly outlast him and his readers.
“Nobody gets through life without losing a few things on the way.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things