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Love At First Sight

There are few things in life more satisfying than to stumble upon a book, especially when you weren’t expecting to. There you are standing in the bookstore and suddenly there is this glow around one of the books. You look at it and without knowing why, you pick it up. You may read the backside, you may read the first meaning or maybe you just like how the cover looks. Whatever it is that triggers your interest, it's suddenly there staring bak at you.

You can feel the heaviness of it in the bag on your way home and as soon as you get a free time you pull it out of the bag, sit down in your favourite chair hopefully, and start to read. Often prematurely, when you feel you should be reading other books - I’m polyamorous when it comes to books (and really nothing else). It still feels a little like cheating.

But then you find yourself reading, often you pull it out just to take a quick look, just a few sentences you think to yourself, just the introduction. And when the feeling comes, sometimes as soon as on the second page, you just know that you’re going to love every word in this book and you’re not going to be putting it down anytime soon.

My first instinct is to get a highlighting pen - one of the neon yellow ones, I love those - and over-line certain sentences that really sing to me but I never do that because I don’t want to taint my books quite so blatantly, especially one giving me this particular feeling. It’s the beauty of eBooks really, and what I love most about them, aside from the fact that I have a lot of books with me all the time, wherever I go as long as I have battery power. But unfortunately the sense of love at first sight and instant magic is rare in the eBook format.

Yesterday I found a book like this.

I had driven my daughter to a climbing facility where a classmate of hers was having a birthday party. She informed me that if I didn’t HAVE to be there I should definitely do other things. She was very polite about this, but stern. It was a half an hours drive so I decided to visit a shopping mall that was close by. I’ve been there a few times before on our way to the cabin we sometimes visit, but it’s not one of my regular places to get things I don’t really need. It was rather early on a Sunday morning so there weren’t many people around and the first shop I saw was a bookstore.

It was a bookstore that’s part of a chain that sells books here. It’s got so far that it’s hard to find bookstores nowadays that aren’t a part of this particular chain. It’s a pleasant store, but there is no unpredictability in it. You go in there and you know exactly what you’re going to find there, and usually where you’re going to find it.

But this morning it was different.

No, let me rephrase that. This morning it felt different. There seemed to be more than usual amount of books in English. The normal bookstores often carry books in English, but those are specific books, mainly they are Fantasy and Science-Fiction which is popular these days. Harry Potter can often be found in English along with G.R.R. Martin’s collection. Certain classics are usually available in English and some titles that have reached paperback. So finding this particular book wasn’t at all extraordinary. The author has become increasingly popular even here and I’ve seen his books in the stores, though mainly the biggest titles unless I find myself in the Scifibookstore which specialises in Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. It’s my favourite place to be.

Anyway, I noticed that there were a lot of books by this author, the bigger titles along with a few smaller ones, even one that wasn’t fiction was crammed in there. The one that caught my eye was the only one I hadn’t read (apart from a non-fiction one).

Now this is a popular author and I’ve read a lot of what he has written. When he publishes a book I usually pick it up sooner or later. I enjoy his books though they usually don’t sing as strong a melody to me as they seem to do with other people, but he is a good writer, entertaining and smart.

I picked the book up because it hadn’t alerted my radar before. I remember seeing something about it online but I had never given it a second thought.

I am not sure what it was that made me side with it on this particular Sunday morning. There was just this feeling of “glow” that this was a book I needed to have. You know the drill. I was reluctant though because I’ve bought a lot of books lately and with the haste at which I’m finishing books these days I have enough books to last me well into the next year.

Still, it was just a small paperback. And it’s a book. Not only that, it’s a book of short stories. I didn’t need to reason with myself much about it, I couldn’t resist. Maybe it was the yellow color? Who knows…

I roamed around the different stores for a while, but there was nothing else that caught my eye. I bought myself a Pepsi Max and some chilly nuts and I went to the car. And as I had another hour to kill I started reading the book.

I felt like I was cheating, because of course I’d brought the book I am reading with me (an entertaining book called CLOCKWORK DYNASTY written by Daniel H. Wilson). I knew there’d be time to kill.

But I was sold, on the first page of the introduction I knew I wouldn’t be able to put this book down. I quickly read the first story and loved it. I've read three stories by the time I write this and they’ve all been magical. They've given me things to think about, things I really needed to be thinking about right now.

Books have their time. Each book has its time with you and find one that fits your now? That’s magic. Sometimes it’s a love that lasts you a lifetime, sometimes the love fades quickly but it doesn’t matter. It’s the now that does matter.

In the introduction he states that “We are all wearing masks. That is what makes us interesting.” (p. xiv) The statement surprised me for some reason. Masks are worn to hide who you are. I’ve always seen that as a pity, a thing to be dealt with, thinking we really should all drop our masks. Never did I consider that the masks in themselves might say a lot about us, might even be interesting in themselves and this thought was just a first of many that caught my attention.

I’ve said this before but the reason I started reading Neil Gaiman in the first place was this short story called I, CTHULHU. I think it’s brilliant and I go to it regularly just to remind myself what one can do with things that already exist in the world. He makes the concept of the story completely his own and does it interestingly and in a funny way despite it thoroughly belonging elsewhere. And to be honest I am not sure if I ever read SMOKE AND MIRRORS which is a collection I know I have lying around somewhere. So I’m not sure I ever read any of his other short story collections while I’ve been plowing through his novels. I've read a story here and there in different anthologies and though none comes to mind now I remember thinking that he does the short story format well.

Why I didn’t realise that I’d enjoy his short stories a lot more than his novels is beyond me. I’ve only read a few authors in my life and truly loved everything they write. I can name a few but (and this may surprise some people) even Murakami doesn’t hold that standard. While I do LOVE his novels I rarely enjoy his short stories, they just don’t come packed with the same oomph his longer stories do. So because of my love for I, CTHULTHU I should have realised a long time ago that to me Neil Gaiman is first and foremost an excellent short story writer. That’s one of his masks - one I hadn’t really paid any attention to. And I’m happy to discover it now.

I have a new love in this collection called TRIGGER WARNING.

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