Friday, April 11, 2008

Good Book with a Bad Title

Part of not judging a book by its cover, for me, is not judging it by its title, either. If I did that, I never would have read Neil Gaiman's new short story collection M Is For Magic. Maybe the title is supposed to attract the young adult audience. At any rate, I checked it out of the library and my daughter and I read it, and we liked three of the stories so much that we kept talking about them and got it back out of the library before deciding we need to buy the book. It's not the kind of book I feel the need to own in hardback (unlike the new Penderwick), so it will languish in my Amazon shopping cart for a while.

The story we talked about the most is "How to Talk to Girls at Parties." In it, a guy who doesn't feel very comfortable talking to girls goes to a party he hasn't been invited to and meets all kinds of girls who have conversations with him like this one:

"I said, 'What's your name? I'm Enn.'
'Wain's Wain,' she said, or something that sounded like it. 'I'm a second.'
'That's uh, That's a different name.'
She fixed me with huge, liquid eyes. 'It indicates that my progenitor was also Wain, and that I am obliged to report back to her. I may not breed.'
'Ah. Well. Bit early for that anyway, isn't it?'"

You've got to suspect that this story might have arisen out of Gaiman's inability to resist the temptation to tell a story just to disprove the conventional wisdom that the friend spouts early on: "They're just girls," said Vic. "They don't come from another planet."

Our other favorites from this collection are "Chivalry" and "The Price." The Price is the story of a brave black cat, and I can't tell you any more about it without spoiling the story for you, so go read it. Chivalry is the story of Mrs. Whitaker, who found the Holy Grail under a fur coat at the Oxfam Shop, and what she does with it.

We also like the story Sunbird, but mostly as a curiosity. It is three kinds of strange, and it reminds me of Steve Martin's story (in Cruel Shoes) about how wonderful it is to see the cathedral at Chartres before it's knocked down by a wrecking ball--operated by the teller of the story.

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