“An alchemical mix of Borges, Raymond Chandler and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. ”—Salon.com (Best of the Year)
“A delightful collection.”— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“My favorite fantasy writer.”—Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered
"Link's stories defy explanation, or at least, brief summary, instead working on the plane between dream and cognitive dissonance. They are true to themselves: witty, beautiful, funny, and startling."— Rain Taxi
"Link uses the nonsensical to illuminate truth, blurring the distinctions between the mundane and the fantastic to tease out the underlying meanings of modern life."— Booklist
"The 11 fantasies in this first collection from rising star Link are so quirky and exuberantly imagined that one is easily distracted from their surprisingly serious underpinnings of private pain and emotional estrangement."
— Publishers Weekly
Kelly Link's collection of stories, Stranger Things Happen, really scores.
—Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine
"A tremendously appealing book, and lovers of short fiction should fall over themselves getting out the door to find a copy."
— Washington Post Book World
"Stylistic pyrotechnics light up a bizarre but emotionally truthful landscape. Link's a writer to watch."
— Kirkus Reviews
"A set of stories that are by turns dazzling, funny, scary, and sexy, but only when they're not all of these at once. Kelly Link has strangeness, charm and spin to spare. Writers better than this don't happen."
—Karen Joy Fowler
"Kelly Link is probably the best short story writer currently out there, in any genre or none. She puts one word after another and makes real magic with them-funny, moving, tender, brave and dangerous. She is unique, and should be declared a national treasure, and possibly surrounded at all times by a cordon of armed marines."
"Kelly Link is the exact best and strangest and funniest short story writer on earth that you have never heard of at the exact moment you are reading these words and making them slightly inexact. Now pay for the book."
The eleven stories in Kelly Link’s debut collection are funny, spooky, and smart. They all have happy endings. They were all especially written for you. A Best of the Year pick from Salon.com, Locus, The Village Voice, and San Francisco Chronicle. Includes Nebula, World Fantasy, and Tiptree award-winning stories.
Kelly Link is the author of three collections of short fiction Stranger Things Happen , Magic for Beginners , and Pretty Monsters. Her short stories have won three Nebula, a Hugo, and a World Fantasy Award. She was born in Miami, Florida, and once won a free trip around the world by answering the question “Why do you want to go through the world?” (”Because you can’t go through it.”)
Link lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, run Small Beer Press, co-edit the fantasy half of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror , and play ping-pong. In 1996 they startd the occasional zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Kelly Link is the author of two collections, Magic for Beginners (chosen as a 2005 Best Book by Time Magazine, Salon.com, and Book Sense) and Stranger Things Happen. She is the editor of the anthology Trampoline. She and her husband Gavin J. Grant started Small Beer Press in 2000.
Read an Excerpt
Dear Mary (if that is your name),
I bet you'll be pretty surprised to hear from me. It really is me, by the way, although I have to confess at the moment that not only can I not seem to keep your name straight in my head, Laura? Susie? Odile? but I seem to have forgotten my own name. I plan to keep trying different combinations: Joe loves Lola, Willy loves Suki, Henry loves you, sweetie, Georgia?, honeypie, darling. Do any of these seem right to you?
All last week I felt like something was going to happen, a sort of bees and ants feeling. Something was going to happen. I taught my classes and came home and went to bed, all week waiting for the thing that was going to happen, and then on Friday I died.
One of the things I seem to have misplaced is how, or maybe I mean why. It's like the names. I know that we lived together in a house on a hill in a small comfortable city for nine years, that we didn't have kidsexcept once, almostand that you're a terrible cook, oh my darling, Coraline? Coralee? and so was I, and we ate out whenever we could afford to. I taught at a good university, Princeton? Berkeley? Notre Dame? I was a good teacher, and my students liked me. But I can't remember the name of the street we lived on, or the author of the last book I read, or your last name which was also my name, or how I died. It's funny, Sarah? but the only two names I know for sure are real are Looly Bellows, the girl who beat me up in fourth grade, and your cat's name. I'm not going to put your cat's name down on paperjust yet.
We were going to name the baby Beatrice. I just remembered that. We were going to name her after your aunt, the one that doesn't like me. Didn't like me. Did she come to the funeral?
I've been here for three days, and I'm trying to pretend that it's just a vacation, like when we went to that island in that country. Santorini? Great Britain? The one with all the cliffs. The one with the hotel with the bunkbeds, and little squares of pink toilet paper, like handkerchiefs. It had seashells in the window too, didn't it, that were transparent like bottle glass? They smelled like bleach? It was a very nice island. No trees. You said that when you died, you hoped heaven would be an island like that. And now I'm dead, and here I am.
This is an island too, I think. There is a beach, and down on the beach is a mailbox where I am going to post this letter. Other than the beach, the mailbox, there is the building in which I sit and write this letter. It seems to be a perfectly pleasant resort hotel with no other guests, no receptionist, no host, no events coordinator, no bellboy. Just me. There is a television set, very old-fashioned, in the hotel lobby. I fiddled the antenna for a long time, but never got a picture. Just static. I tried to make images, people out of the static. It looked like they were waving at me.
My room is on the second floor. It has a sea view. All the rooms here have views of the sea. There is a desk in my room, and a good supply of plain, waxy white paper and envelopes in one of the drawers. Laurel? Maria? Gertrude?
I haven't gone out of sight of the hotel yet, Lucille? because I am afraid that it might not be there when I get back.
You know who.
The dead man lies on his back on the hotel bed, his hands busy and curious, stroking his body up and down as if it didn't really belong to him at all. One hand cups his testicles, the other tugs hard at his erect penis. His heels push against the mattress and his eyes are open, and his mouth. He is trying to say someone's name.
Outside, the sky seems much too close, made out of some grey stuff that only grudgingly allows light through. The dead man has noticed that it never gets any lighter or darker, but sometimes the air begins to feel heavier, and then stuff falls out of the sky, fist-sized lumps of whitish-grey doughy matter. It falls until the beach is covered, and immediately begins to dissolve. The dead man was outside, the first time the sky fell. Now he waits inside until the beach is clear again. Sometimes he watches television, although the reception is poor.
The sea goes up and back the beach, sucking and curling around the mailbox at high tide. There is something about it that the dead man doesn't like much. It doesn't smell like salt the way a sea should. Cara? Jasmine? It smells like wet upholstery, burnt fur.
Dear May? April? Ianthe?
My room has a bed with thin, limp sheets and an amateurish painting of a woman sitting under a tree. She has nice breasts, but a peculiar expression on her face, for a woman in a painting in a hotel room, even in a hotel like this. She looks disgruntled.
I have a bathroom with hot and cold running water, towels, and a mirror. I looked in the mirror for a long time, but I didn't look familiar. It's the first time I've ever had a good look at a dead person. I have brown hair, receding at the temples, brown eyes, and good teeth, white, even, and not too large. I have a small mark on my shoulder, Celeste? where you bit me when we were making love that last time. Did you somehow realize it would be the last time we made love? Your expression was sad; also, I seem to recall, angry. I remember your expression now, Eliza? You glared up at me without blinking and when you came, you said my name, and although I can't remember my name, I remember you said it as if you hated me. We hadn't made love for a long time.
I estimate my height to be about five feet, eleven inches, and although I am not unhandsome, I have an anxious, somewhat fixed expression. This may be due to circumstances.
I was wondering if my name was by any chance Roger or Timothy or Charles. When we went on vacation, I remember there was a similar confusion about names, although not ours. We were trying to think of one for her, I mean, for Beatrice. Petrucchia, Solange? We wrote them all with long pieces of stick on the beach, to see how they looked. We started with the plain names, like Jane and Susan and Laura. We tried practical names like Polly and Meredith and Hope, and then we became extravagant. We dragged our sticks through the sand and produced entire families of scowling little gifts named Gudrun, Jezebel, Jerusalem, Zedeenya, Zerilla. How about Looly, I said. I knew a girl named Looly Bellows once. Your hair was all snarled around your face, stiff with salt. You had about a zillion freckles. You were laughing so hard you had to prop yourself up with your stick. You said that sounded like a made-up name.
You know who.
The dead man is trying to act as if he is really here, in this place. He is trying to act in a normal and appropriate fashion. As much as is possible. He is trying to be a good tourist.
He hasn't been able to fall asleep in the bed, although he has turned the painting to the wall. He is not sure that the bed is a bed. When his eyes are closed, it doesn't seem to be a bed. He sleeps on the floor, which seems more floorlike than the bed seems bedlike. He lies on the floor with nothing over him and pretends that he isn't dead. He pretends that he is in bed with his wife and dreaming. He makes up a nice dream about a party where he has forgotten everyone's name. He touches himself. Then he gets up and sees that the white stuff that has fallen out of the sky is dissolving on the beach, little clumps of it heaped around the mailbox like foam.
Dear Elspeth? Deborah? Frederica?
Things are getting worse. I know that if I could just get your name straight, things would get better.
I told you that I'm on an island, but I'm not sure that I am. I'm having doubts about my bed and the hotel. I'm not happy about the sea or the sky, either. The things that have names that I'm sure of, I'm not sure they're those things, if you understand what I'm saying, Mallory? I'm not sure I'm still breathing, either. When I think about it, I do. I only think about it because it's too quiet when I'm not. Did you know, Alison? that up in those mountains, the Berkshires? the altitude gets too high, and then real people, live people forget to breathe also? There's a name for when they forget. I forget what the name is.
But if the bed isn't a bed, and the beach isn't a beach, then what are they? When I look at the horizon, there almost seem to be corners. When I lay down, the corners on the bed receded like the horizon.
Then there is the problem about the mail. Yesterday I simply slipped the letter into a plain envelope, and slipped the envelope, unaddressed, into the mailbox. This morning the letter was gone and when I stuck my hand inside, and then my arm, the sides of the box were damp and sticky. I inspected the back side and discovered an open panel. When the tide rises, the mail goes out to sea. So I really have no idea if you, Pamela? or, for that matter, if anyone is reading this letter.
I tried dragging the mailbox further up the beach. The waves hissed and spit at me, a wave ran across my foot, cold and furry and black, and I gave up. So I will simply have to trust to the local mail system.
Hoping you get this soon,
You know who.
The dead man goes for a walk along the beach. The sea keeps its distance, but the hotel stays close behind him. He notices that the tide retreats when he walks towards it, which is good. He doesn't want to get his shoes wet. If he walked out to sea, would it part for him like that guy in the bible? Onan?
He is wearing his second-best suit, the one he wore for interviews and weddings. He figures it's either the suit that he died in, or else the one that his wife buried him in. He has been wearing it ever since he woke up and found himself on the island, disheveled and sweating, his clothing wrinkled as if he had been wearing it for a long time. He takes his suit and his shoes off only when he is in his hotel room. He puts them back on to go outside. He goes for a walk along the beach. His fly is undone.
The little waves slap at the dead man. He can see teeth under that water, in the glassy black walls of the larger waves, the waves farther out to sea. He walks a fair distance, stopping frequently to rest. He tires easily. He keeps to the dunes. His shoulders are hunched, his head down. When the sky begins to change, he turns around. The hotel is right behind him. He doesn't seem at all surprised to see it there. All the time he has been walking, he has had the feeling that just over the next dune someone is waiting for him. He hopes that maybe it is his wife, but on the other hand if it were his wife, she'd be dead too, and if she were dead, he could remember her name.
Dear Matilda? Ivy? Alicia?
I picture my letters sailing out to you, over those waves with the teeth, little white boats. Dear reader, Beryl? Fern? you would like to know how I am so sure these letters are getting to you? I remember that it always used to annoy you, the way I took things for granted. But I'm sure you're reading this in the same way that even though I'm still walking around and breathing (when I remember to) I'm sure I'm dead. I think that these letters are getting to you, mangled, sodden but still legible. If they arrived the regular way, you probably wouldn't believe they were from me, anyway.
I remembered a name today, Elvis Presley. He was the singer, right? Blue shoes, kissy fat lips, slickery voice? Dead, right? Like me. Marilyn Monroe too, white dress blowing up like a sail, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Looly Bellows (remember?) who lived next door to me when we were both eleven. She had migraine headaches all through the school year, which made her mean. Nobody liked her, before, when we didn't know she was sick. We didn't like her after. She broke my nose because I pulled her wig off one day on a dare. They took a tumor out of her head that was the size of a chicken egg but she died anyway.
When I pulled her wig off, she didn't cry. She had brittle bits of hair tufting out of her scalp and her face was swollen with fluid like she'd been stung by bees. She looked so old. She told me that when she was dead she'd come back and haunt me, and after she died, I pretended that I could see not just herbut whole clusters of fat, pale, hairless ghosts lingering behind trees, swollen and humming like hives. It was a scary fun game I played with my friends. We called the ghosts loolies, and we made up rules that kept us safe from them. A certain kind of walk, a diet of white foodmarshmallows, white bread rolled into pellets, and plain white rice. When we got tired of the loolies, we killed them off by decorating her grave with the remains of the powdered donuts and Wonderbread our suspicious mothers at last refused to buy for us.
Are you decorating my grave, Felicity? Gay? Have you forgotten me yet? Have you gotten another cat yet, another lover? or are you still in mourning for me? God, I want you so much, Carnation, Lily? Lily? Rose? It's the reverse of necrophilia, I supposethe dead man who wants one last fuck with his wife. But you're not here, and if you were here, would you go to bed with me?
I write you letters with my right hand, and I do the other thing with my left hand that I used to do with my left hand, ever since I was fourteen, when I didn't have anything better to do. I seem to recall that when I was fourteen there wasn't anything better to do. I think about you, I think about touching you, think that you're touching me, and I see you naked, and you're glaring at me, and I'm about to shout out your name, and then I come and the name on my lips is the name of some dead person, or some totally made-up name.
Does it bother you, Linda? Donna? Penthesilia? Do you want to know the worst thing? Just a minute ago I was grinding into the pillow, bucking and pushing and pretending it was you, Stacy? under me, oh fuck it felt good, just like when I was alive and when I came I said, "Beatrice." And I remembered coming to get you in the hospital after the miscarriage.
There were a lot of things I wanted to say. I mean, neither of us was really sure that we wanted a baby and part of me, sure, was relieved that I wasn't going to have to learn how to be a father just yet, but there were still things that I wish I'd said to you. There were a lot of things I wish I'd said to you.
You know who.
The dead man sets out across the interior of the island. At some point after his first expedition, the hotel moved quietly back to its original location, the dead man in his room, looking into the mirror, expression intent, hips tilted against the cool tile. This flesh is dead. It should not rise. It rises. Now the hotel is back beside the mailbox, which is empty when he walks down to check it.
The middle of the island is rocky, barren. There are no trees here, the dead man realizes, feeling relieved. He walks for a short distanceless than two miles, he calculates, before he stands on the opposite shore. In front of him is a flat expanse of water, sky folded down over the horizon. When the dead man turns around, he can see his hotel, looking forlorn and abandoned. But when he squints, the shadows on the back veranda waver, becoming a crowd of people, all looking back at him. He has his hands inside his pants, he is touching himself. He takes his hands out of his pants. He turns his back on the shadowy porch.
He walks along the shore. He ducks down behind a sand dune, and then down a long hill. He is going to circle back. He is going to sneak up on the hotel if he can, although it is hard to sneak up on something that always seems to be trying to sneak up on you. He walks for a while, and what he finds is a ring of glassy stones, far up on the beach, driftwood piled inside the ring, charred and black. The ground is trampled all around the fire, as if people have stood there, waiting and pacing. There is something left in tatters and skin on a spit in the center of the campfire, about the size of a cat. The dead man doesn't look too closely at it.
He walks around the fire. He sees tracks indicating where the people who stood here, watching a cat roast, went away again. It would be hard to miss the direction they are taking. The people leave together, rushing untidily up the dune, barefoot and heavy, the imprints of the balls of the foot deep, heels hardly touching the sand at all. They are headed back towards the hotel. He follows the footprints, sees the single track of his own footprints, coming down to the fire. Above, in a line parallel to his expedition and to the sea, the crowd has walked this way, although he did not see them. They are walking more carefully now, he pictures them walking more quietly.
His footprints end. There is the mailbox, and this is where he left the hotel. The hotel itself has left no mark. The other footprints continue towards the hotel, where it stands now, small in the distance. When the dead man gets back to the hotel, the lobby floor is dusted with sand, and the television is on. The reception is slightly improved. But no one is there, although he searches every room. When he stands on the back veranda, staring out over the interior of the island, he imagines he sees a group of people, down beside the far shore, waving at him. The sky begins to fall.
Dear Araminta? Kiki?
Lolita? Still doesn't have the right ring to it, does it? Sukie? Ludmilla? Winifred?
I had that same not-dream about the faculty party again. She was there, only this time you were the one who recognized her, and I was trying to guess her name, who she was. Was she the tall blonde with the nice ass, or the short blonde with the short hair who kept her mouth a little open, like she was smiling all the time? That one looked like she knew something I wanted to know, but so did you. Isn't that funny? I never told you who she was, and now I can't remember. You probably knew the whole time anyway, even if you didn't think you did. I'm pretty sure you asked me about that little blond girl, when you were asking.
I keep thinking about the way you looked, that first night we slept together. I'd kissed you properly on the doorstep of your mother's house, and then, before you went inside, you turned around and looked at me. No one had ever looked at me like that. You didn't need to say anything at all. I waited until your mother turned off all the lights downstairs, and then I climbed over the fence, and up the tree in your backyard, and into your window. You were leaning out of the window, watching me climb, and you took off your shirt so that I could see your breasts, I almost fell out of the tree, and then you took off your jeans and your underwear had a day of the week embroidered on it, Holiday? and then you took off your underwear too. You'd bleached the hair on your head yellow, and then streaked it with red, but the hair on your pubis was black and soft when I touched it.
We lay down on your bed, and when I was inside you, you gave me that look again. It wasn't a frown, but it was almost a frown, as if you had expected something different, or else you were trying to get something just right. And then you smiled and sighed and twisted under me. You lifted up smoothly and strongly as if you were going to levitate right off the bed, and I lifted with you as if you were carrying me and I almost got you pregnant for the first time. We never were good about birth control, were we, Eliane? Rosemary? And then I heard your mother out in the backyard, right under the elm I'd just climbed, yelling "Tree? Tree?"
I thought she must have seen me climb it. I looked out the window and saw her directly beneath me, and she had her hands on her hips, and the first thing I noticed were her breasts, moonlit and plump, pushed up under her dressing gown, fuller than yours and almost as nice. That was pretty strange, realizing that I was the kind of guy who could have fallen in love with someone after not so much time, really, truly, deeply in love, the forever kind, I already knew, and still notice this middle-aged woman's tits. Your mother's tits. That was the second thing I learned. The third thing was that she wasn't looking back at me. "Tree?" she yelled one last time, sounding pretty pissed.
So, okay, I thought she was crazy. The last thing, the thing I didn't learn, was about names. It's taken me a while to figure that out. I'm still not sure what I didn't learn, Aina? Jewel? Kathleen? but at least I'm willing. I mean, I'm here still, aren't I?
Wish you were here,
You know who.
At some point, later, the dead man goes down to the mailbox. The water is particularly unwaterlike today. It has a velvety nap to it, like hair. It raises up in almost discernable shapes. It is still afraid of him, but it hates him, hates him, hates him. It never liked him, never "Fraidy cat, fraidy cat," the dead man taunts the water.
When he goes back to the hotel, the loolies are there. They are watching television in the lobby. They are a lot bigger than he remembers.
Dear Cindy, Cynthia, Cenfenilla,
There are some people here with me now. I'm not sure if I'm in their placeif this place is theirs, or if I brought them here, like luggage. Maybe it's some of one, some of the other. They're people, or maybe I should say a person I used to know when I was little. I think they've been watching me for a while, but they're shy. They don't talk much.
Hard to introduce yourself, when you have forgotten your name. When I saw them, I was astounded. I sat down on the floor of the lobby. My legs were like water. A wave of emotion came over me, so strong I didn't recognize it. It might have been grief. It might have been relief. I think it was recognition. They came and stood around me, looking down. "I know you," I said. "You're loolies."
They nodded. Some of them smiled. They are so pale, so fat! When they smile, their eyes disappear in folds of flesh. But they have tiny soft bare feet, like children's feet. "You're the dead man," one said. It had a tiny soft voice. Then we talked. Half of what they said made no sense at all. They don't know how I got here. They don't remember Looly Bellows. They don't remember dying. They were afraid of me at first, but also curious.
They wanted to know my name. Since I didn't have one, they tried to find a name that fit me. Walter was put forward, then rejected. I was un-Walter-like. Samuel, also Milo, also Rupert. Quite a few of them liked Alphonse, but I felt no particular leaning towards Alphonse. "Tree," one of the loolies said.
Tree never liked me very much. I remember your mother standing under the green leaves that leaned down on bowed branches, dragging the ground like skirts. Oh, it was such a tree! the most beautiful tree I'd ever seen. Halfway up the tree, glaring up at me, was a fat black cat with long white whiskers, and an elegant sheeny bib. You pulled me away. You'd put a T-shirt on. You stood in the window. "I'll get him," you said to the woman beneath the tree. "You go back to bed, mom. Come here, Tree."
Tree walked the branch to the window, the same broad branch that had lifted me up to you. You, Ariadne? Thomasina? plucked him off the sill and then closed the window. When you put him down on the bed, he curled up at the foot, purring. But when I woke up, later, dreaming that I was drowning, he was crouched on my face, his belly heavy as silk against my mouth.
I always thought Tree was a silly name for a cat. When he got old and slept out in the garden, he still didn't look like a tree. He looked like a cat. He ran out in front of my car, I saw him, you saw me see him, I realized that it would be the last strawa miscarriage, your husband sleeps with a graduate student, then he runs over your catI was trying to swerve, to not hit him. Something tells me I hit him. I didn't mean to, sweetheart, love, Pearl? Patsy? Portia?
Excerpted from Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. Copyright © 2001 by Kelly Link. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
|Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose||9|
|Water Off a Black Dog's Back||27|
|The Specialist's Hat||55|
|Travels with the Snow Queen||99|
|Survivor's Ball, or, The Donner Party||145|
|Shoe and Marriage||167|
|Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water||191|
|The Girl Detective||241|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read one of Link's stories in my American Lit class and I liked it so much I had to read more. Water off a Black Dog's Back and The Specialist's Hat were my favorites of this collection. I just feel like Link has that something more in her writing that really absorbs you. Some people might hesitate because of her use of magical realism...you think that the magic realism will be trite, but by the time it is introduced into the story you are so absorbed that your reaction ends up being something along the lines of: a living hat with rows of real teeth - of course, wouldn't have it any other way. Read it.
All eleven short stories here are crackers. Anyone who¿s a fan of Alice Munro, Carol Emshwiller, Lorrie Moore, Peter Straub, or just a well-written short story needs to check out this collection. Some of the stories have been published before, I saw one in Fence Magazine, and maybe online too, but it is well worth seeing them all in one place. And look at that cover!
I'm so glad I listened to all the friends who told me I needed to read this book. Kelly Link shares stories that unfold like dreams, could be classed as urban fantasy or magical realism, but that really just stand apart as a genre unto themselves, leaving the reader without the comfort of the familiar. These stories have stayed in my head long after I actually read the book, creeping back into my conscious thoughts like a memory of an uncertain encounter.
Kelly Link is one of the best short story writers currently typing away. I'm still amazed how she manages to craft such brilliant tales.
Really good stories set between real world and fantasy/ fairy tale/ mythology worlds. A couple of the stories are absolutely prefect!
Stranger Things Happen is Kelly Link''s first collection of short stories, but I'm reading it second. Overall, I think I preferred the second collection - Magic for Beginners, whose stories seemed more polished and more sure of themselves - but this is still an entertaining collection that straddles genres. There's a few that didn't really work for me, where it felt more as if Link was putting out half-thought ideas rather than fully formed stories, but when she gets it right, she really does. She has a sharp eye for language that gives her characters a quick liveliness, and there are some nifty ideas jumping around.This collection, which comes back to the idea of fairy tales more than once, reads like a blend of Angela Carter, Ursula Le Guin and Neil Gaiman; the succeeding collection has more of a feel of an author writing with her own strong voice. I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Loved it. It is a somewhat uneven collection, but the stories that I initially found to be weaker have grown on me, and the best stories just get better. Some of the stories were more goal-oriented than others, and I think I generally preferred the former type; but with the latter, if I was left a bit unsatisfied at the end, I at least enjoyed the dreamy, slightly unsettling atmospheres and the imaginative settings.I saved "Travels With the Snow Queen" for last, and I was glad that I did: that story alone is worth the price of admission. Brilliantly conceived, funny, and oddly touching. I particularly love Link's use of fairy tale material--these stories come complete with lopped-off pinkies, trifold objects/characters/tales, talking animals, and musings on just how hard fairy tales are on females' feet. Sleeping Beauty is in there, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, the twelve dancing princesses, Orpheus and Eurydice, and more, all wonderfully reinvented and/or subverted.So, for the stand-out stories, "Travels With the Snow Queen" was great (playing off of the Hans Christian Andersen tale as well as other well-known fairy tales);"Vanishing Act" (a young girl's missionary parents leave her with her aunt, uncle and cousins, so the homesick girl learns how to "disappear herself" back with them, as her female cousin watches her household fall apart);"Shoe and Marriage" (a three-part tale--a reworking of Cinderella, a honeymooning couple watches a surreal beauty pageant that includes Dorothy and her ruby red shoes as Miss Kansas (the beauty pageant scene is unforgettable), and the reluctant wife of a dictator saves the shoes of all the people that he has had murdered);and "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" (a dead man in a strange beach hotel writes letters to his still-living wife, whose name he cannot remember).
I adored these stories, they are like crazy fairy tales on crack. Not crack, actually, more like some sort of odd hallucinogen.
A book of surreal short stories that would vie with Hurakami for the strangest stories I¿ve ever read. Unlike Hurakami, however, there is no Kafkaesque feeling of alienation; the odd people in these stories seem generally content with the craziness of their lives. What kind of stories are these? Here¿s a list from the back cover: ¿The girl detective must go to the underworld to solve the case of the tap-dancing bank robbers. A librarian falls in love with a girl whose father collects artificial noses. A dead man posts letters home to his estranged wife. Two women named Louise begin a series of consecutive love affairs with a string of cellists¿.¿Sometimes, when I read odd stories like these, I get the feeling the author is just trying to be weird in order to be weird. I didn¿t feel that way while reading this book. Reading the stories felt like the author was relating them exactly as he¿d seen them in a vision or a dream. I¿d have to say that even though I read all the way to the end I¿m not sure how much I took away from the book. I didn¿t remember any of the details of the book until I looked over the story titles.
Very interesting, almost Shirley Jacksonesque, in her own kind of way
stories: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose / Water Off a Black Dog's Back / The Specialist's Hat / Flying Lessons / Travels with the Snow Queen / Vanishing Act / Survivor's Ball, or, The Donner Party / Shoe and Marriage / Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water / Louise's Ghost / The Girl DetectiveThis would be the third collection of Link's stories that I've read...though I believe it's the first she published. "Shoe and Marriage" and "Louise's Ghost" were among my favorites from this book, but I enjoyed the distinctive Linkian quirkiness of the whole collection.
Beautiful and entertaining, there are some really wonderful stories here. I'm not sure what genre to call it--magic realism?--but she delves into romance, horror, and comedy.
Short stories, beautifully written, but with a tendency to go nowhere. There are a number that are based on legend and fairytale - 'The Snow Queen', 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses' and the Greek pantheon - which worked better for me than the ones based on original ideas. Maybe I just like knowing what to expect.
Link's first collection of short stories feels slightly more uneven than her second (Magic For Beginners). Once again, she displays a flair for crossing genres and combining elements of sci-fi, fantasy, fairy tale, detective story, horror, and comedy. While I don't always mind her penchant for digression within a story, I felt a couple of these pieces wandered a bit. My favorite stories included "Vanishing Act," "Louise's Ghost," "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," and "Water Off a Black Dog's Back."
The title of this book isn't very apt. I've never happened across anything stranger than the stories that I read in this collection. I couldn't wrap my head around them. After the third story, I just gave up. Usually I love surreal and weird stories, but these were just too much for me.
If you suspect that you might be an ordinary person, one without creativity or imagination... well, then Stranger Things Happen might not appeal to you to begin with, but it certainly won't make you feel any better about your imaginative state. Even if you think you are a fairly creative person, it's hard to believe that you could come close the level of the fantastic and fascinating that Kelly Link achieves in these eleven short stories. A strange combination of fantasy and very modern reality, Link's collection features stories that don't necessarily always work perfectly, but are certainly memorable.As far as the collection goes, these stories are all linked by fairy tales (or mythology) undercurrents and an ethereal tone where the reader understands that not all is as it seems... and the fact that in each of these stories, very real characters (in perhaps not so realistic settings) deal with personal pain and try to somehow make a connection to someone else. On the back cover of my paperback, Andrew O'Hehir is quoted from his NY Times Book Review article as saying that Link's stories "aren't linked to one another, at least not in the sense that they share settings or characters, but they all draw water from the same clear, cold, deep well." I find that to be a profoundly excellent way of explaining the feeling that one is left with at the end of the collection. Not quite ghost stories in a sense of horror, but certainly some blend of Gothic fantasy that yield goosebumps and an eerie atmosphere.Link is a good example of the post-modern storyteller struggling to find a narrative structure that works for each tale, and as a result, few of these pieces are straightforward narratives. I tended to find that the more straightforward stories (well, as straightforward as Link gets) are the ones that I liked a bit more -- I was able to spend more time thinking about the characters and events and less in decoding her narrative intentions/figuring what she was trying to do by mixing things up so completely. (I'm mostly thinking about "The Girl Detective" as I say that, the last in the collection and, for me, the least satisfying.) There is, however, always a way to connect emotionally with these characters, for no matter how strange the circumstances of the story, it's the deeper emotions that make up the truly compelling foundation of each one.It's hard to pick a favorite -- and harder to single one out as being the most memorable -- but if I had to, I think I would go with "Travels with the Snow Queen" as the one I enjoyed most in the collection. Of course, I also feel that might be my shortfalls as a reader, because I found it very easy to relate to that narrator. As a young woman coming to terms with a failed relationship, she walks a path shown in the scars of her shoeless feet and whether she must stick to this path becomes an overpowering question. The reader is led to question the sacrifices of heroines in fairy tales and wonder if the traditional happily ever after with a "hero" is quite worth it or if the heroine might be just as happy pursing some other path. A close second is "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," where a probably dead man exists in a somewhat limbo-like seaside resort, writing letters to his wife, whose name he cannot remember. The uncertainty of his situation and his clinging to what he believes he knows about his wife and their life paints a very poignant picture. As the first story in the book, it drew me in and assured that I would keep reading. "Flying Lessons" draws heavily on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (and even a bit of Icarus), but with some swapped gender roles, one feels a greater strength in the heroine so that ultimate happiness might just be possible. (Of course, there's also the looming idea of what happens then, but one must first get to the point where one can seriously ask that question). "Survivor's Ball, or, the Donner Party" features two Americans, strangers, th
Kelly Link is my favorite short story writer in the business right now. She's got a great sense of humor, a wonderful imagination, and genuine story telling skill. It's not literature but it's not empty escapism either. If you like fantasy, you'll like Kelly Link.