M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
M is for the many things I always hope to get out of reading a Neil Gaiman book. Then the usual happens...
Some of these stories - "Sunbird", "October in the Chair", and "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" - appear in his excellent short story collection Fragile Things, and apparently others also appear elsewhere, mostly Smoke and Mirrors. Add to that, "The Witch's Headstone" is the precursor to The Graveyard Book. So, M is for Magic is really just a repackaging of old material.
That's been a running theme in my Gaiman reading experience. He relies on source material too much. His stories are magical, even fantastical, but his ideas are old and used. Fairytales and mythology make up the subject matter of a good deal of the Gaiman canon. Much of it is straight up taken from preexisting sources with a modern day sensibility and scant, if any, new invention slapped on it in order to call it his own. It's genius! Fantasy is the IT genre these days and the people like their entertainment to come with some familiarity, thus the man has hit upon a winning formula. Few writers can claim the kind of unbridled popular success Neil Gaiman has achieved, so it could be argued that few if any could do better work within the realms of writing he inhabits.
But I digress. Back to M is for Magic!
Whereas Fragile Things had decidedly adult content, this one gets no more racy than the suggestion of teens having "a time good" at a house party in "How to Talk to Girls at Parties". The rest is mostly stuff such as a crime noir version of nursery rhymes, a troll-under-the-bridge story, foodies in search of the ultimate meal, and a take on the quest for the Holy Grail in which an ordinary housewife finds the Grail at a thrift store and won't give it up to Sir Galahad because it looks nice on her mantel. (I could totally see one of the Pythons in drag playing the woman.)
I'm not sure exactly what the appropriate reading age would be for these stories - I'm a childless middle-aged man, what the hell do I know? - they're not for tiny tots, but they could probably be read by nearly all other age levels, even old farts, and enjoyed in some way, shape or form.
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