Off the Shelf: Angels and Visitations

Enter the mind of best-selling author Neil Gaiman with his collected anthology “Angels and Visitations”. Literary brilliance is exemplified in each one of these tales. Coupled with several illustrations by Dave McKean, “Angels and Visitations” is an experience like none other. Each short story or poem reflects upon Gaiman’s perspective of some moral or social value.

“Nicholas Was…” is a brief poem regarding the classic Santa Claus with a spine chilling twist. Rather than the jolly figure pasted upon every shop window during the holiday season, he is represented as having a slave relationship under the “arctic gnomes”. Every year, with much reluctance, old Saint Nick is forced to embark an endless night, delivering the handicrafts of his masters.

One of Gaiman’s more morbid stories, “Baby Cakes” is perhaps his most recognized. It begins with a world in which all the animals have one day left. Unable to make many of the products people were so used to, society has turned to using babies as a resource. Adults would eat baby meats, wear clothes made of baby, and test new medicines and cosmetics on babies. Then one day, as suddenly as the animals, the babies left too. Reminiscent of the ideas of Swift, this particular satire focuses more on the general abuse of animals in society. The author hoped to use a certain shock value to get his message across.

In the short story “Troll Bridge”, a young boy finds an old bridge in one of his explorations. To the child’s surprise, a short hairy creature stops him, explaining that he will now have to consume the child. The boy convinces the troll to let him pass, since he has yet to age and could not possibly taste good. Similar events transpire throughout the boy’s life, each time passing the bridge convincing the troll to let him go on his way. By the end of the story, the boy is an older gentleman that has lived a life general disappointment. The man once more happens across the troll bridge, and instead of making an excuse, he welcomes the troll like an old friend. In a scene of phantasmagoric imagery, the troll and the man switch skins and in turn places.

“Angels and Visitations” is a great book to stay in and read this winter. Gaiman’s short story compendium style is perfect for any occasion. Sneak a story or two in between class or indulge in them all in one night.

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