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M is for Magic (2007)

de Neil Gaiman

Altres autors: Teddy Kristiansen (Il·lustrador)

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Eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events.
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M is always for magic! I've read this collection a few times, and even though the stories are well familiar, they still manage to bring a sense of whimsy and wonder back into my life. From the comedic "Chivalry", which cleverly plays on the trope of thriftshop treasures and Arthurian quests, to the darker tale "Troll Bridge", which explores themes around a life well lived (or not), we are left knowing that there is still magic left in the mundane world. The collection wraps with one of my favourite Gaiman poems/stories: "Instructions", which, though short, is probably one of the most lovely and important pieces that he has ever written. Here we are reminded that every day is a journey, that there are rules and tropes to living (whether we understand them or not), and that above all belief is what should drive us. We may be getting just a teaser in this short collection of Gaiman's tales, but it's more than enough to get us hooked and on a quest for more. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
A mixed bag collection of short stories, most of which I'd read before.
"The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds", a noir parody in a world populated by nursery rhyme characters, is a cute concept, but I'm not sufficiently familiar with British nursery rhymes to get the most of out of it. I recognise when a reference is being made as I'll usually have heard the rhyme's title, but I don't know the actual lines to it, and so the humour Gaiman is presumably trying to mine is frequently lost on me.
"Troll Bridge" is a dark modern day fairy tale of a boy meeting a troll under a bridge, and then repeatedly as he grows older. It's perhaps not quite my cup of tea, verging too far into horror territory for my tastes, but I do find the writing engrossing here.
"Don't Ask Jack", a tale about a Jack-in-the-box which might or might not be haunted, has a similar mood to "Troll Bridge", but I like it a tad more, perhaps because it is shorter and simpler and I feel like I'm wasting less time getting to the point.
"How to Sell the Ponti Bridge" is, if you have a moment, a nesting narrative fantasy crime comedy thriller about a pandimensional club for con artists. It's quite good, I find, until the very end, where the end twist is not much of a twist at all, even though all the characters behave as though it's beyond brilliant. That punctures it a bit for me, but I see this is by far the oldest of the stories in the collection, and having been written much earlier in Gaiman's career, I can partially forgive it the underwhelming ending. If the end twist had been more satisfying, this would easily have been a favourite of mine, as it is otherwise very much up my alley of preferences.
"October in the Chair" is another nesting narrative. In this one personifications of the calendar months tell each other stories. I've read this one before and always feel a bit unsure if I'm missing some kind of essential point -- a couple of very short stories in the beginning aside, there's really just one proper, long tragic story told during the proceedings, and I'm unclear on why that wouldn't have worked just as well on its own, and what the framing device adds to it. While that story is fine (a bit too slow and ponderous for my tastes), the framing narrative is far more memorable, and I kind of feel like the whole of it ends up a bit lesser than the sum of its parts somehow.
"Chivalry" is a fantasy comedy of an old woman buying the Holy Graill on a whim. It's a bit of a delight, and, if you can stomach some low key zaniness, one of the collection's high points by my tastes.
"The Price" is a pseudo-autobiographical (Gaiman seems to have made himself the protagonist) fantasy horror of a black cat that shows up at his house and keeps getting hurt badly during mysterious fights at night. It feels a bit self-indulgant in the set-up, spending a lot of time describing the other cats of the house (though most of them never appear again in the story), but I find it otherwise to be the most memorable and gripping tale included.
"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" is a science fiction mystery drama of two boys attending an all-girl party that is not what it seems to be. Honestly, I didn't get much out of this in its comic book version a few years ago, and I think I now might have gotten even less out of this short story that it was adapted from. The premise is potentially quite fun, but there isn't much of a narrative springing from it.
"Sunbird" is another highlight, a fantasy horror comedy of an Epicurean club wishing to dine on a phoenix, and the story here I've read the most times previously. There's an odd irrationality to some character choices that the book lampshades but never explains that always rub me the wrong way, but I otherwise really like this one. With "Chivalry", it competes for being my second favourite story here, behind "The Price".
"The Witch's Headstone" is sort of an adventure story about a boy raised by ghosts venturing briefly into the mundane world. The story is a chapter from "The Graveyard Book" novel, and while it does work on its own here, it has a lot of references to earlier stories and set-up for later ones that should have been edited out before it was published on its own. It's entertaining, and in the stronger half of the collection for sure, but if you're interested, I'd strongly recommend you just pick up the full novel instead.
"Instructions" is a wonderful poem taking the reader through a fairy tale of evocative tropes and notions. It doesn't quite qualify as a story per se, but if it did, it'd likely edge out "The Price" as my favourite here.

Kristiansen's black and white illustrations are decent, but for me, I can't say they really gave any added value. They're too few and too anonymous to really bring anything to the stories that my imagination hadn't already done by the time they showed up.

All in all, you'd probably be better served buying a different Gaiman short story collection than this one (and as this is one that reprints stories from several other ones, you'll also avoid a lot of overlap if you skip this before buying some of the other ones), but it's definitely varied in both form and style, and should have a little something for most tastes -- assuming your tastes lean towards the supernatural in any way, at least. ( )
  Lucky-Loki | Jan 28, 2021 |
I became an avid reader in first grade as I learned how to sound out letters and recognize words. Almost immediately I was reading everything that came to hand, even the back of cereal boxes at breakfast. All the way through the end of my college days, I always had a book in my hand. I even majored in Literature. But, alas, eventually life and adulting rammed it's way into my reality and I had to step back from my love of reading for a 20 year span or so while I worked two jobs, raised children, got married, divorced and married again, had a late baby, etc etc. Life got in the way, and reading got bumped way down on my priority list.

But, my youngest child is now 12. I'm almost 50 years old and I have more free time than I did when I was younger. I know who I am, and I'm well set in my ways and comfy with my life and who I am. So.....slowly, reading has been climbing back up in priority.

There are a lot of wonderful books and authors that I missed while I was away.

Neil Gaiman is one of them.

I can hear it now.....OMG she never read Neil Gaiman??!! Nope. Not until recently.

I knew his name.....had a couple of his books on my tbr shelf.....and watched television episodes written by him. But I never actually sat down and read any books by Gaiman until this year. I started with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Loved it! Then a friend recommended American Gods.

I'm hooked.

I guess I should get to the point since this is a review of M is for Magic. After a huge Gaiman tome like American Gods (plus watching the show on Starz), I wanted to try out some of his short stories. I read a few reviews of M is for Magic and learned the stories in the book are reprints previously published in other books and magazines. But, as a new fan of Gaiman's work, they are all new to there won't be any complaints here about republishing stories. For those who have read Gaiman before (which feels like everyone on the planet but me ha ha), be aware that all of these stories have been published before. Four were published in Smoke & Mirrors, another story anthology by Gaiman that I have waiting on my TBR shelf.

Stories included in M is for Magic are: The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Troll Bridge, Don't Ask Jack, How to Sell the Ponti Bridge, October in the Chair, Chivalry, The Price, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Sunbird, The Witch's Headstone, and Instructions.

I chose the audiobook version of this book. I like to hear Gaiman reading his own stories. :) Luckily, his voice is perfect for it.

All in all, I enjoyed this collection of stories. The themes are varied, but all share Gaiman's particular vintage of creepy-cool strangeness. Chivalry is my favorite. The concept of a woman buying the holy grail at a thriftshop is just too cool. :) The cover art is just fantastic as well!

Because I enjoyed this little collection of tales so much, I'm going to delve into Smoke & Mirrors next. Very curious to find out what creepy goodness lurks between the covers of that book! :)

For more information on Neil Gaiman and his many books, check out his website:

( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
Short stories just aren't my jam, so none of the usual NG raves from me on this one. I had read some of the stories in other collections. Bonus: going to sleep to Neil Gaiman's voice is always good. [I went back to where I left off so I didn't miss anything.] ( )
  joyblue | Oct 27, 2020 |
I adore Gaiman's work and I adore listening to him tell his stories, that is how I read this book. The stories this go around though really didn't keep my attention. They are well written like his work usually is, but they just didn't hold my attention expect for the story "The Witch's Headstone" and that was only because its a piece from my favorite Gaiman work "The Graveyard Book"
I wouldn't rush out to listen/read this book and it wont be a top recommendation from me either, but as a Gaiman fan it was worth giving it a shot, his pieces are well written these ones just didn't do it for me this time, and I am okay with that. ( )
  SweetKokoro | Jul 31, 2020 |
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Writing imaginative tales for the young is like sending coals to Newcastle. For coals.
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Eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events.

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