Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
It’s not the most striking cover ever, but it does fit the stories in one way: despite being very similar to fairly well-known painting, on second glance it’s just a little bit different, just enough to make you wonder. Link’s stories are all about the magic and weirdness hidden in the cracks of life.
The nine stories in Link’s second collection are the spitting image of those in her acclaimed debut, Stranger Things Happen: effervescent blends of quirky humor and pathos that transform stock themes of genre fiction into the stuff of delicate lyrical fantasy. In “Stone Animals,” a house’s haunting takes the unusual form of hordes of rabbits that camp out nightly on the front lawn. This proves just one of several benign but inexplicable phenomena that begin to pull apart the family newly moved into the house as surely as a more sinister supernatural influence might. The title story beautifully captures the unpredictable potential of teenage lives through its account of a group of adolescent schoolfriends whose experiences subtly parallel events in a surreal TV fantasy series. Zombies serve as the focus for a young man’s anxieties about his future in “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” and offer suggestive counterpoint to the lives of two convenience store clerks who serve them in “The Hortlak.” Not only does Link find fresh perspectives from which to explore familiar premises, she also forges ingenious connections between disparate images and narrative approaches to suggest a convincing alternate logic that shapes the worlds of her highly original fantasies.
It’s a short story collection–all standalone stories, to my knowledge.
Loved all of it, even when it scared me or broke my heart.
Fairy Tale tropes: several stories are retellings or elaborations of traditional tales, and I love this whenever it is done well.
Not just sadness: Link brings you through all kinds of emotions and reactions through this collection.
My favorite story, probably, is the title story. In it, there is a wonderful TV show that is a huge adventure fantasy, and it’s never on at regular times or acted by the same people, and I can’t help thinking that it’s a bit like Doctor Who, only crazier and more wonderful and harder to be completely caught up on. I want that show to be real, because I would be its biggest fan.
I had only read one or two of Link’s short stories before. Of course, short stories are pretty much her thing, and she is very good at them. If you are in the mood for magical/magical realist short stories, you should strongly consider this collection.
Borrowed from work; considered buying, but my friend and coworker Emily W. had already asked to read it next, so I returned it for her.