For the month of October, The Short Story Station featured stories from Yiyun Li and Neil Gaiman. The former author is new to me, while the latter is a favorite.
I had never heard of Yiyun Li until her story, A Sheltered Woman, became one of the short stories featured last October. Despite zero background about the author and her works, I excitedly printed out a copy of the story and read it one night before bedtime. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly loved the story despite not having any expectations about it. It was a delightful surprise because there were a lot of things that endeared me to Auntie Mei even though she has a bleak view of the world and she really makes an effort not to get too emotionally attached to the babies that she’s been taking care of. There is something in Auntie Mei’s seemingly detached demeanor — of putting barriers between her and her emotions — that reminded me of me several years back. I had been told to be living inside a shell or building a wall between me and people (it’s true) and it was because I was afraid of pain. Auntie Mei grew up learning that emotional attachments to people will only cause her pain and misery, and because of this, she deemed it better to be alone and simply work as a nanny who leaves after the baby turns one month old. Through this, she can be sure that she will never feel connected to the babies and parents that she worked with. But can she survive without really making any connections with people?
The way the story ended was something that really made me love it more. It was the lack of a proper closure that really got me. I am entranced by the writing and I loved the way Yiyun Li captured the depths and intricacies of the human nature and our desire to connect to people despite the fear of being hurt.
“If knowing someone makes that person stay with you forever, not knowing someone does the same trick: death does not take the dead away; it only makes them grow more deeply into you.”
I had the pleasure of reading Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, which is an anthology of short stories, a couple of years back and A Study in Emerald is one of the featured stories. When I reread A Study in Emerald yesterday, I must say that I appreciated it more than I did the first time I read it. The combination of crime, mystery, and weird, is perfectly crafted and the elements blended together beautifully. Although I do not have sufficient background of Sherlock Holmes (aside from the fact that I know him to be a detective) and that I have never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, and that I didn’t know that the story was a mash up of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Lovecraft, I loved it still as it is. It made me curious about Lovecraft, though, and I am going to take note of his works for future reading.
Of course, one can never go wrong with a Neil Gaiman, and the signature blend of creepy and crazy is present in this story.