Magic for Beginners

Overview

Perfect for readers of George Saunders, Karen Russell, Neil Gaiman, and Aimee Bender, Magic for Beginners is an exquisite, dreamlike dispatch from a virtuoso storyteller who can do seemingly anything. Kelly Link reconstructs modern life through an intoxicating prism, conjuring up unforgettable worlds with humor and humanity. These stories are at once ingenious and deeply ...

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Magic for Beginners: Stories

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Overview

Perfect for readers of George Saunders, Karen Russell, Neil Gaiman, and Aimee Bender, Magic for Beginners is an exquisite, dreamlike dispatch from a virtuoso storyteller who can do seemingly anything. Kelly Link reconstructs modern life through an intoxicating prism, conjuring up unforgettable worlds with humor and humanity. These stories are at once ingenious and deeply moving. They leave the reader astonished and exhilarated.

Includes an exclusive conversation between Kelly Link and Joe Hill

Praise for Magic for Beginners
 
“A sorceress to be reckoned with.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“[Kelly] Link’s stories . . . play in a place few writers go, a netherworld between literature and fantasy, Alice Munro and J. K. Rowling, and Link finds truths there that most authors wouldn’t dare touch.”—Lev Grossman, Time
 
“She is unique and should be declared a national treasure.”—Neil Gaiman
 
“Funny, scary, surprising and powerfully moving within the span of a single story or even a single sentence.”—Karen Russell, The Miami Herald
 
“This is what certain readers live for: fiction that makes the world instead of merely mimicking it.”—Audrey Niffenegger
 
“[These] exquisite stories mix the aggravations and epiphanies of everyday life with the stuff that legends, dreams and nightmares are made of.”—Laura Miller, Salon, Best Books of the Decade
 
“A major talent . . . Like George Saunders, [Link] can’t dismiss the hidden things that tap on our windows at night.”The Boston Globe
 
“The most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”—Michael Chabon
 
“I think she is the most impressive writer of her generation.”—Peter Straub
 
“Link’s world is one to savor. [Grade:] A”Entertainment Weekly
 
“Intricate, wildly imaginative and totally wonderful . . . will fill you with awe and joy.”—NPR

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A sorceress to be reckoned with.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“[Kelly] Link’s stories . . . play in a place few writers go, a netherworld between literature and fantasy, Alice Munro and J. K. Rowling, and Link finds truths there that most authors wouldn’t dare touch.”—Lev Grossman, Time
 
“She is unique and should be declared a national treasure.”—Neil Gaiman
 
“Funny, scary, surprising and powerfully moving within the span of a single story or even a single sentence.”—Karen Russell, The Miami Herald
 
“This is what certain readers live for: fiction that makes the world instead of merely mimicking it.”—Audrey Niffenegger
 
“[These] exquisite stories mix the aggravations and epiphanies of everyday life with the stuff that legends, dreams and nightmares are made of.”—Laura Miller, Salon, Best Books of the Decade
 
“A major talent . . . Like George Saunders, [Link] can’t dismiss the hidden things that tap on our windows at night.”The Boston Globe
 
“The most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”—Michael Chabon
 
“I think she is the most impressive writer of her generation.”—Peter Straub
 
“Link’s world is one to savor. [Grade:] A”Entertainment Weekly
 
“Intricate, wildly imaginative and totally wonderful . . . will fill you with awe and joy.”—NPR
Michael Knight
… even when I didn't know what to make of her stories, I couldn't put them out of my mind. That sort of resonance, that lingering, haunting effect, is the product of real magic, and Kelly Link is no doubt a sorceress to be reckoned with.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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. (July 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812986518
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2014
  • Pages: 352

Meet the Author

Kelly Link’s first collection, Stranger Things Happen, was a Salon and Village Voice book of the year. She edited the anthology Trampoline, co-edits the zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and runs Small Beer Press with her partner, Gavin J. Grant. With Ellen Datlow and Gavin J. Grant, she edits The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She once won a free trip around the world by answering the question “Why do you want to go around the world?” (“Because you can’t go through it.”) Link lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Magic for Beginners


By Link, Kelly

Harvest Books

Copyright © 2006 Link, Kelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0156031876

The Faery Handbag
I USED TO GO TO THRIFT STORES WITH MY FRIENDS. We'd take the train into Boston, and go to The Garment District, which is this huge vintage clothing warehouse. Everything is arranged by color, and somehow that makes all of the clothes beautiful. It's kind of like if you went through the wardrobe in the Narnia books, only instead of finding Aslan and the White Witch and horrible Eustace, you found this magic clothing world--instead of talking animals, there were feather boas and wedding dresses and bowling shoes, and paisley shirts and Doc Martens and everything hung up on racks so that first you have black dresses, all together, like the world's largest indoor funeral, and then blue dresses--all the blues you can imagine--and then red dresses and so on. Pink reds and orangey reds and purple reds and exit-light reds and candy reds. Sometimes I would close my eyes and Natasha and Natalie and Jake would drag me over to a rack, and rub a dress against my hand. "Guess what color this is."
We had this theory that you could learn how to tell, just by feeling, what color something was. For example, if you're sitting on a lawn, you can tell what color green the grass is, with your eyes closed, depending on how silky-rubbery it feels. With clothing, stretchy velvet stuff always feels red when your eyesare closed, even if it's not red. Natasha was always best at guessing colors, but Natasha is also best at cheating at games and not getting caught.
One time we were looking through kids' T-shirts and we found a Muppets T-shirt that had belonged to Natalie in third grade. We knew it belonged to her, because it still had her name inside, where her mother had written it in permanent marker when Natalie went to summer camp. Jake bought it back for her, because he was the only one who had money that weekend. He was the only one who had a job.
Maybe you're wondering what a guy like Jake is doing in The Garment District with a bunch of girls. The thing about Jake is that he always has a good time, no matter what he's doing. He likes everything, and he likes everyone, but he likes me best of all. Wherever he is now, I bet he's having a great time and wondering when I'm going to show up. I'm always running late. But he knows that.
We had this theory that things have life cycles, the way that people do. The life cycle of wedding dresses and feather boas and T-shirts and shoes and handbags involves The Garment District. If clothes are good, or even if they're bad in an interesting way, The Garment District is where they go when they die. You can tell that they're dead, because of the way that they smell. When you buy them, and wash them, and start wearing them again, and they start to smell like you, that's when they reincarnate. But the point is, if you're looking for a particular thing, you just have to keep looking for it. You have to look hard.
Down in the basement at The Garment District they sell clothing and beat-up suitcases and teacups by the pound. You can get eight pounds' worth of prom dresses-- a slinky black dress, a poufy lavender dress, a swirly pink dress, a silvery, starry lame dress so fine you could pass it through a key ring--for eight dollars. I go there every week, hunting for Grandmother Zofia's faery handbag.

The faery handbag: It's huge and black and kind of hairy. Even when your eyes are closed, it feels black. As black as black ever gets, like if you touch it, your hand might get stuck in it, like tar or black quicksand or when you stretch out your hand at night, to turn on a light, but all you feel is darkness.
Fairies live inside it. I know what that sounds like, but it's true.

Grandmother Zofia said it was a family heirloom. She said that it was over two hundred years old. She said that when she died, I had to look after it. Be its guardian. She said that it would be my responsibility.
I said that it didn't look that old, and that they didn't have handbags two hundred years ago, but that just made her cross. She said, "So then tell me, Genevieve, darling, where do you think old ladies used to put their reading glasses and their heart medicine and their knitting needles?"

I know that no one is going to believe any of this. That's okay. If I thought you would, then I couldn't tell you. Promise me that you won't believe a word. That's what Zofia used to say to me when she told me stories. At the funeral, my mother said, half-laughing and half-crying, that her mother was the world's best liar. I think she thought maybe Zofia wasn't really dead. But I went up to Zofia's coffin, and I looked her right in the eyes. They were closed. The funeral parlor had made her up with blue eyeshadow, and blue eyeliner. She looked like she was going to be a news anchor on Fox television, instead of dead. It was creepy and it made me even sadder than I already was. But I didn't let that distract me.
"Okay, Zofia," I whispered. "I know you're dead, but this is important. You know exactly how important this is. Where's the handbag? What did you do with it? How do I find it? What am I supposed to do now?"
Of course, she didn't say a word. She just lay there, this little smile on her face, as if she thought the whole thing-- death, blue eyeshadow, Jake, the handbag, faeries, Scrabble, Baldeziwurlekistan, all of it-- was a joke. She always did have a weird sense of humor. That's why she and Jake got along so well.

I grew up in a house next door to the house where my mother lived when she was a little girl. Her mother, Zofia Swink, my grandmother, babysat me while my mother and father were at work.
Zofia never looked like a grandmother. She had long black hair, which she plaited up in spiky towers. She had large blue eyes. She was taller than my father. She looked like a spy or ballerina or a lady pirate or a rock star. She acted like one too. For example, she never drove anywhere. She rode a bike. It drove my mother crazy. "Why can't you act your age?" she'd say, and Zofia would just laugh. Zofia and I played Scrabble all the time. Zofia always won, even though her English wasn't all that great, because we'd decided that she was allowed to use Baldeziwurleki vocabulary. Baldeziwurlekistan is where Zofia was born, over two hundred years ago. That's what Zofia said. (My grandmother claimed to be over two hundred years old. Or maybe even older. Sometimes she claimed that she'd even met Genghis Khan. He was much shorter than her. I probably don't have time to tell that story.) Baldeziwurlekistan is also an incredibly valuable word in Scrabble points, even though it doesn't exactly fit on the board. Zofia put it down the first time we played. I was feeling pretty good because I'd gotten forty-one points for zippery on my turn.
Zofia kept rearranging her letters on her tray. Then she looked over at me, as if daring me to stop her, and put down eziwurlekistan, after bald. She used delicious, zippery, wishes, kismet, and needle, and made to into toe. Baldeziwurlekistan went all the way across the board and then trailed off down the righthand side.
I started laughing.
"I used up all my letters," Zofia said. She licked her pencil and started adding up points.
"That's not a word," I said. "Baldeziwurlekistan is not a word. Besides, you can't do that. You can't put an eighteen-letter word on a board that's fifteen squares across."
"Why not? It's a country," Zofia said. "It's where I was born, little darling."
"Challenge," I said. I went and got the dictionary and looked it up. "There's no such place."
"Of course there isn't nowadays," Zofia said. "It wasn't a very big place, even when it was a place. But you've heard of Samarkand, and Uzbekistan and the Silk Road and Genghis Khan. Haven't I told you about meeting Genghis Khan?"
I looked up Samarkand. "Okay," I said. "Samarkand is a real place. A real word. But Baldeziwurlekistan isn't."
Copyright 2005 by Kelly Link
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at harcourt.com/ contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


Continues...

Excerpted from Magic for Beginners by Link, Kelly Copyright © 2006 by Link, Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents
The Faery Handbag 
The Hortlak 
The Cannon 
Stone Animals 
Catskin
Some Zombie Contingency Plans 
The Great Divorce 
Magic for Beginners 
Lull 
 

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