So here in Stansbury, we like a good short story as much as the next person. As a matter of fact, Sheriff Tom has written a number of them and he keeps submitting them to The New Yorker and The Atlantic and "important" magazines like that and he always gets rejected and everyone keeps telling him that the stories are really good, but just not quite right for the Algonquin set. But we did ask the sheriff to contribute something about a story he likes for Sunday Shorts, which can be found both here at Goodreads or here, which is a cool blog from another northern town.
So here's Sheriff Tom with one of his recommendations...
Neil Gaiman - Troll Bridge
Neil Gaiman writes excellent fantasy tales. He knows the tropes and he works well in the genre. Because I write a lot of bridge centered stories, this one stuck out to me simply on title. But I really love all the stories in this book...and most of Gaiman's work. As an illustrator, I wish I could draw the stuff he writes. That would be incredible.
There are two aspects of this story that work nicely. The first is the way Gaiman seamlessly introduces a very basic fantasy character, the troll under the bridge, into the very real, ordinary life of his narrator. There is never a moment where the narrator wonders how the troll exists in his world. He simply accepts the troll and the troll’s demand of his life as he would a criminal who had stopped him to take his wallet. The magic of the creature and his “attack” is not shocking for the reader because it is not shocking to the narrator. I have never read magical realism that integrated traditional fantasy until this story. The magic is natural and of nature in the way that defines magical realism.
The second aspect of the story that was very successful was the melancholy of the narrator’s life. It is sad while not pathetic. It would have been very easy for Gaiman to create pathos. But it is simply sad. As the character’s life progresses, the missed opportunities and poor choices play nicely against the fall of the natural world to modernization. The simple fact that the narrator would rather be the troll under a graffiti-scrawled, condom strewn bridge than to continue in his own sad life, or, as he states at the end, any sad modern life, speaks volumes to the decay that modern life has imposed upon living.