The Problem of Susan
How Do You Think It Feels?
from: Gaiman, Neil. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. New York: William Morrow.
First of all, before I discuss the four selections for this week's R.I.P. group read, I have to tell you what a dolt I am. You see, I completely forgot, when I signed on for this challenge (and the whole R.I.P. challenge) that I would be spending most of the month of October in Maine without easy Internet access. I can get it at the library, but when you are in Maine in October, you don't tend to want to spend most of your time at the library. And the library in Maine is closed on Sundays, so this will be my last official post on Fragile Things. Have no fear, though, if you are still interested in what I have to say about it, because I'm going to continue to read it and will post my thoughts when I can (along with the other books I'm reading for the R.I.P. Challenge). It just may be that you have to wait till November for me to finish up.
Now, onto my thoughts about this week's four:
Another poem. This one is absolutely charming, all about Gaiman telling "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to his young daughter. First of all, can you imagine getting to be Neil Gaiman's daughter and having him read you bedtime stories? It's charming, but it's also poignant, as Gaiman remarks on the changes he knows will be inevitable as his daughter ages. It's also a commentary on the importance of story telling (you won't get any argument from me on that point). Finally, it's a commentary on the protectiveness a parent feels for a child. It's beautiful, really. Again, I wish I had a whole collection of his poetry.
The Problem of Susan
I've mentioned over the years, in other blog posts, that I was not the fan of Narnia that it seems all the other kids I knew were. I liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but not anywhere near as much E. Nesbit's fantasies or the Oz books. I read some of the other Narnia books, but basically just to see what all the fuss was about, and I don't think I even bothered to finish out the series. I was surprised, then, to find, that I absolutely loved this story. It doesn't matter that I had no idea what Susan's fate had been. Gaiman explains that both in the Introduction and in the story itself. What I love about this story is that he answers the question the reader wants answered, the one he or she has been asking, even after multiple readings of a favorite novel, and because he's a writer he can. It's like reading Little Women for the hundredth time and thinking, "Why couldn't Jo just have married Laurie?" The question, in this case, happened to be, "But what about poor Susan? Just because she liked to do things like wear lipstick?" It's the sort of thing that seems so unfair, her being denied her family's great reward. Gaiman does a superb job of imagining what happened to Susan. It's not blissfully happy, but it's probably not nearly the punishment C. S. Lewis probably had in mind for the child who was more fond of worldly things than she was of godly things (I like to think that even as a child I couldn't handle the Christian allegory in the Narnia tales, the way Lewis hits the reader over the head with it, which is what I discovered when I reread The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a few years ago. But, I suspect, it had more to do with not really liking any of the characters).
Heavenly, heavenly poem. I can't even begin to describe it. You must read it for yourself.
How Do You Think It Feels?
This is a melancholic love story. When I was young and went through my fair share of breakups, I used to wish that I could just, somehow, cut out the part of my brain that remembered the person, that remembered both all the lovely times we'd had together and all the heartache at the end. I felt I'd be better off if I could just throw out all the memories. Now that I'm older, of course, I'm glad I couldn't (and not only because I'd probably have less than half a brain at this point). All those experiences are very important for making us who we become, and they do make us wiser, and they do harden our hearts -- a little, at least. Luckily, most of us do not harden our hearts the way the heart is hardened in this story. Or do we? If Gaiman gave us hope in Harlequin Valentine, he sort of takes it away here. Nonetheless, I liked the story. If nothing else, it's always a comfort to those who've had to glue their hearts back together time and again, fearful that next time they might break beyond repair, to read a new theme on "'Tis better to have loved and lost..." even if it's an extremely bleak one.