Back to the House of God: some short reflections


Final exams loom, a distressingly diminishing number of days away. Calendars are the enemy now and every sunset inspires a mixture of awe and resentment. Days and weeks and months are finite, fickle creatures.


I reread Samuel Shem’s cynical exposé on medical training in North America because I needed to remind myself what I was working toward in the weeks after exams. House of God isn’t a particularly encouraging novel, but throughout the story hope rises like the Wing of Zock: unstoppable and overpowering.


In this season of fasting (not Lent) I will have to give up so many of my vices: novels, writing, the internet, sleep. Oh, sleep, I will miss you. A fourth year student asked me what I would do come June 3 when the last of my exams are over.

“I’d run naked,” she suggested. Oblivious to our incredulity, she continued. “As I walk out of the exam, I’d be unhooking my bra, pulling down the straps.” She trailed off in slow-motion speech, lost in a fantastical daydream.

I intend to sleep the sleep of the guilt-free. It’s been so long since I had guilt-free sleep, I’m probably going to get an ulcer. Just one time I would like to put my head on a pillow and not have the voice in my head (which sounds uncannily like one of my friends) demand that I cease this nonsense and get on with studying.


This morning while waiting on the bus that shuttles us to the hospital, I stared across the expanse of sea and horizon, thinking.

I feel like I’m being wound-up, I wrote in my journal, like an old-fashioned wrist watch. Will I fall apart when the time comes, or spring smoothly into action like some well-oiled gears?

Do any of us know how we will perform when we need to? I think everyone feels some tension at this point, regardless of ambition. Even those of us who are certain of passing (there are always some) are still anxious about graduating with honours or distinctions.

There’s so much at stake, so much at risk. I calm myself by remembering that this too shall pass.


P. S.

Thursdays have sort of turned into book sharing time, so I’m sorry if this wasn’t what you expected. But! If you read this far, know that I have been reading way more fiction than I should, and if you want a recommendation Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning is absolute soul-disturbing perfection and you should go read it now (Also, he and Amanda are pregnant so yay).

It’s so rare that I recommend a newly published book – am I doing it right?

Review | Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

First thing, this is Neil Gaiman so my bias is about to get very obvious.

Second thing, does anyone even review anthologies? Google says yes. I plunge ahead.

Gaiman published Fragile Things back in 2006, his third short story collection. (I have only read two and he has written five. Prolific authors are very expensive to be in love with). Most of the stories were printed elsewhere previously and some of them won their fair share of awards.

The introduction explains the background behind every story, their genesis, a theme Gaiman explains in more detail with Inventing Aladdin where he deconstructs the story of Scheherazade. This book took longer than usual to read because I kept flipping back and forth between the introductory explanations all the way at the front and whichever story I was reading at the time.

I’m really stalling until I can write something resembling a coherent review instead of just fangirl oohs and ahhs punctuated by superlatives.

From the introduction and this list on Wikipedia, the book sounds like a motley crew of stories and characters who just never had anywhere else to fit in. Gaiman mentions that he belaboured a bit on the order but I (in my infinite obliviousness) haven’t been able to see an overt movement of themes of structures.

There are scattered poems and outtakes, short short stories and long short stories. There is dark fantasy and light fantasy and children’s books are dealt with with a firm hand.

Hang on, I should probably be writing about the actual stories.

For the record, they were all good. Gaiman has the enviable twin talents of having a story to tell and being able to tell it with panache. But there were a few I didn’t like, and I’ll focus on those because that list is just way shorter. Trust me.

I didn’t like most of the poems – unfortunately. Either they were dealing with subject matter unfamiliar to me and I just couldn’t connect (Going Wodwo), or they just didn’t sit well. I’m picky with my poetry though.

I thought Good Boys Deserve Favours was a bit on the boring side and Strange Little Girls would probably make way more sense with the accompanying CD. The Fairy Reel (poem) fell sort of flat and The Flints of Memory Lane was (in Gaiman’s own words) unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, How Do You Think it Feels, Harlequin Valentine and Other People were shocking and disturbing (in a good way). The Problem of Susan was particularly poignant, Feeders and Eaters creeped me the hell out (again, in a good way) and Sunbird was just about the best birthday present anyone could ever ask for.

I am exceedingly partial to the American Gods novella, The Monarch of the Glen, because I love Shadow and missed him dearly. He definitely needs some lovin’ in real, well fictional, life though.

See how short the list of less-than-awesome was? I could go on forever about the ones I did like.

I really want to mention Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire because (1) WTF is that name and (2) I love the way he plays with Story here.

And I think this is already too long for a simple review so I’ll just stop myself from going on like the sock monkey in My Life. (I don’t even need alcohol).


Nice Things I Like

There’s a file on my computer called “Nice Things I Like”. It’s not Yoda-speak; I just happened to like the cadence of the words in that order. It’s filled with meaningful quotes and poems and songs I’ve come across in my sojourn across the internet.

This post is a little bit like that file.

Is there anything this man can’t do? Comic books, critically acclaimed novels, movies, TV shows, and now a video game? Neil, can you please be my daddy?

It’s a touching article on being an almost-doctor. Funny, sad and dangerously honest.

  • Still Into You by Paramore

This amazing Paramore song has been stuck in my head all week. Do not watch if you are averse to happiness or cutesy romantic themes. Or sparklers.

The official lyric video is also the cutest finger puppet show I have ever seen.


This would be me. If I was old. And British. And a man.

Neil Gaiman’s vision: ‘I wanted to get across what it’s like to be a kid in a strange world’ – Culture & Entertainment News | The Irish Times – Sat, Jun 08, 2013.

An interview with Neil Gaiman on his first adult novel in 8 years (The Ocean at the End of the Lane). It’s about how much of himself he put into the story as a small boy who grew up getting his ideas of the world from books.

There is so much of him in me.

But not in that way. :P

fangirling | Down to a Sunless Sea by Neil Gaiman

If you don’t already know, Neil Gaiman is the best writer in the world. Sorry, Shakespeare.

I have been following his work since I watched Mirrormask when I was a girl. His writing is eerily mystifying and wholly absorbing and he’s one of the few authors who effectively suspends my disbelief.

His new short story “Down to a Sunless Sea” is in typical Gaiman style (possible Gangnam Style parody here?) with its haunting beauty. It is dark, depressing but written so damn well you are smiling as he rips your heart out. Neil Gaiman does setting, character, narrative, everything above par. He always meets and exceeds my (high) expectations.

Other Works by Neil Gaiman:

  • American Gods
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Graveyard Book
  • Coraline
  • Smoke and Mirrors (an anthology of short stories)
  • Stardust
  • Neverwhere

Oh, and Happy Easter, everyone! Enjoy your chocolate eggs/bun and cheese/church services!