Short story collections are tricky things, and tricky to rate. You never love all of them, but when one or two of them truly grab you, you’re good. And of course, nobody gets grabbed by the same stories. The three stars represent the amount of stories that didn’t do a thing for me, even though I fell for a few of the others.
There was a lot in here that struck me as stereotypically gothic or “just a” story, even though Gaiman always finds beautiful words for his stories. But beautiful words don’t make a story. That was The Flints of Memory Lane, The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch (I felt that you had to be Kurt Vonnegut to pull off telling the ending first), Feeders and Eaters, Pages From a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky (how Kafka would have written, if he was Neil Gaiman), Keepsakes and Treasures, and the Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves …, also nearly all of the Poems.
There were also some that I liked, but did not love; they were nice to look at, but did not touch me: A Study in Emerald (because apparently you can pull off the Holmes/Cthulhu crossover if your name is Gaiman), October in the Chair (nice little precursor to the Graveyard Book), Bitter Grounds (too Kafka to touch me, but very, very well done), Harlequin Valentine (I can go with that symbolism), How Do You Think It Feels (I don’t like affairs, but I do like Gargoyles), In The End, and Goliath, which he wrote for the Matrix website when the movie got out, and I think I liked it as much as the movie. Also, How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Sunbird, which I knew and liked already.
And then, sometimes, stories or poems or ideas just touch you. Some even grip you, and some of those won’t let go for a long time: The Problem of Susan, even though (or because) I did not like Narnia. Instructions, which I need to write down in the nicest lettering I can manage, and put it up, or give it to somebody who needs it. The Monarch of the Glen, because Shadow. Oh, Shadow. And, last and foremost, Other People. Yeah, that one is not going to go away.