First Impressions: Trigger Warning

Neil Gaiman’s latest collection is his weakest work to date. I can’t recommend it.

I KNOW! I can’t believe it either. I’m a huge fan of his: I love Sandman, I love his books, I love his short fiction most of all…and yet, Trigger Warning isn’t solid. There are 2-3 stories with his usual magic and cleverness, but the rest feel like writing exercises knocked out over an afternoon. Go read the collection then come back and convince me I’m mistaken. Please!

(Dear Neil Gaiman: you’re still in my top fifteen!)

I’m going to have a drink while I scrape something together for a review. Cheers, all.

First Impressions: S.

This is not a review in a traditional sense. I’m seizing the chance to gush early. I AM SO EXCITED and if I get this out now, I can simmer down and read the book. This book is incredibly beautiful (and $21 on Amazon).

The book comes in a black slip cover with ‘S.’ emblazoned across it. This is the only place you can learn the true authors of the work: J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. When you remove the cover, you’ll find a library book. It’s almost boring for how ordinary it is.

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Look, there’s even a catalogue sticker on the spine!

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The title pages correspond to Ship of Theseus. The other works of the fictional author, V.M. Straka, are listed here and the publisher info gives credit to Winged Shoes Press, who apparently printed it in 1949. Though it was hard to communicate in the photos, you can see the borders of the pages are faintly yellowed; there are occasional greasy speckles as though the last reader was eating while reading.

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Here’s how it works: you shuck off the cover, forget about Abrams/Dorst, and pretend you are reading Ship of Theseus by the enigmatic V.M. Straka. Not only that, you are reading a copy that has been passed between two grad students who have written notes to one another in the margins. Jen writes in blue and Eric writes in black as they work to unravel the mystery around Straka’s final work. Perhaps most interesting is the way the notes express the passage of time. The follow up to the blue/black comment below is written in red and purple. The red and purple ink is mostly found at the end of the book as Jen and Eric’s story wraps up. The different colors allow them to comment back on earlier remarks and foreshadow events for the reader. There are layers within layers here.

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I particularly love the way their notes appear to be actually written within the book–there is no tacky, script-y font for Jen; if you look closely, the letters are distinct and not standardized as they would be if her remarks were simply typed. It’s clear a lot of love went into this book. There are also inserts, added by Jen and Eric that add further layers.

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These are particularly well-done. They showcase a variety of handwriting styles from a range of characters and they are printed on different materials: cards, stationary, napkins, post-cards… The differing textures add a tactile quality that has me a little crazy over this book.

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Right?? Can you blame me for being a little infatuated right now?

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So, so much love.

And now I need to read it. I don’t know why I’m so apprehensive… There are some qualities to this presentation that remind me of House of Leaves (which I may re-read after this and post). Parts of House of Leaves were astonishingly effective and other parts were gimmicky and overwrought. I can’t help but wonder if this book is all style and no substance. I have been burned by a few of those lately, and didn’t bother to post (read: rant). There is so much room for brilliance here… I can’t wait!