Gaiman's throne: 'Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances' by Neil Gaiman
April 20, 2015 3:54 PM
Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Neil Gaiman’s writing is so present, so engaging, that it can send spasms of bone-chilling terror through your body and your reaction would still be, “Please sir, I want some more.”
His collection of “short fictions and disturbances” — most previously published, among them several award-winners — is “Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances,” (William Morrow, $26.99), a title not to be confused with the trigger for which Roy Rogers’ horse was named but the trigger that summons something that should be accompanied by the theme from “Jaws.”
Pop culture references are fitting for a mostly sinister gathering that also includes Sherlock Holmes (“The Case of Death and Honey”), Doctor Who (“Nothing O’Clock”) and “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.”
The master of the first-person macabre seems to be channeling Shirley Jackson one minute, Arthur Conan Doyle the next and Edgar Allan Poe overall. A piece that puts me in thematic mind of Poe, “My Last Landlady” (“last” being the operative word) was written with dark intent for a publication of the World Horror Convention. I know this because Mr. Gaiman told me so, or so it seemed, in his chatty introduction that offers his personal spin on each of the “disturbances” that follow.
He writes that one of the shorter pieces, “Adventure Story,” could be seen as a companion piece to his most recent novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” but it seems to owe more to the David Wallace novel “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.” No surprise that Tim Burton and Mr. Gaiman would share a tendency toward stories that take an ominous turn.
The writer name-drops throughout the introduction, but his characters are often ordinary people who encounter extraordinary — or lethal — situations. If anyone is seemingly innocent — a child asking to be told a bedtime story, for instance — that should trigger a warning.
“Orange” is a story told from one point of view, a young woman being interrogated by police in light of an … event. Best not to give spoilers here. Mr. Gaiman loses his voice in hers. They become one. It’s an exercise and a feat all at once.
“The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains …” is the longest and most gripping piece, and the one with a long introduction among the two dozen in “Trigger Warning.” It won the Shirley Jackson Award and Lotus Award as best novelette and was released as a book illustrated by Eddie Campbell and a CD, from Mr. Gaiman reading and music by the band FourPlay at the Sydney Opera House.
It builds from an unrelentingly cold, dreary place to a shattering aha moment that exemplifies the theatricality of Mr. Gaiman’s writing. He is nothing if not a presence, in public life and in his writing, which owns a unique corner of the best-sellers’ shelf. The new offering in this collection, “Black Dog,” revisits the world of “American Gods,” a fan-favorite novel that is being adapted for cable TV.
The author signs the introduction to “Trigger Warning” with his name, followed by “In a cabin in the dark woods” — “dark” being one clue to the contents, “Neil Gaiman” being the other.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.