like someone who had just set her favourite city on fire."
Reviewed by Michael Keefe
her second collection of short stories, Magic for Beginners,
Link has stretched her acts of portrayal ever further, traveling
deeper into fantastical realms while strengthening her ties to
reality. For most writers, these aims would be opposing. For the
dexterous Link, however, they prove complementary.
the opening story, The
Faery Handbag, she establishes
both worlds and reveals the portal between the two: Genevieve's
grandmother's big hairy purse. Yes, an entire parallel universe
exists with the titular bag. Time there is distorted, though, so that
a person who enters for a day may come out years later. Ultimately,
the men in Genevieve's life always seem to disappear, despite her
proclamation that she hates it when "some guy gets to go off and
have adventures and meanwhile the girl has to stay home and wait. I'm
a feminist. I subscribe to Bust magazine and watch Buffy reruns. I
don't believe in that kind of shit."
hip blending of the modern world and skewed mythology permeates the
title story, which is an episode of a fictional television show
called The Library
in which a clutch of high school friends are
addicted to a television show called The Library. Um,
best just to go with the flow and not try to figure out Link's
machinations. In one sense, the story is simply about the trials of
teenagers: who has a crush on whom, the ramifications of a potential
parental divorce, shared hobbies. But it's also about being willed a
phone booth in the desert outside Las Vegas and making mysterious
late night calls to a supposedly deceased TV character.
best stories in Magic
for Beginners, though, have zombies in them.
I've read The
Hortlak four times and won't stop there. In
it, two live-in convenience store clerks are out to change the way
retail works, despite their clientele consisting mostly of the
zombies who crawl up from the chasm arcoss the road. A girl named
Charley also visits regularly, stopping for Mountain Dew breaks
during her final drives with dogs slated to be put to sleep at the
local animal shelter. Batu teaches Charley Turkish in the parking
lot, while Eric's unspoken love keeps him at a distance. Meanwhile,
the zombies shuffle by. These monsters are benign in The
Hortlak, but not so in Some Zombie Contingency Plans,
in which an ex-con crashes a party and reveals his schemes for
escaping various situations wherein zombies are attacking. One such
plan involves the use of scented soaps.
is the case with most short story collections, not every entry in Magic for
Beginners is a winner. Catskin left me
and The Cannon
is a real head-scratcher — more of a
peculiar allegory, really. Stone
Animals has a strong
premise and great writing, but runs a bit too long. On the balance,
though, Kelly Link's work is an amazing hybrid of character-driven
fiction and surreal fantasy, told with a darkly comic edge. Magic for
Beginners will win you over.
Keefe is the Publicist for Annie Bloom's Books, Associate Music
Editor at PopMatters, and a freelance journalist. He also sings and
plays guitar in Portland, Oregon pop/rock band Budget Airlines.
Michael spends his free time hitting tennis balls and pondering
obscure albums. He lives with his author wife, Liz.
Publisher: Small Beer
Publication Date: Sept 2006
Link lives in
Northampton, MA. She received her MFA from the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Link is the author of two
short story collections, Stranger
Things Happen (2001) and Magic for
Beginners (2005, hardcover). She also runs Small Beer
Press with her
husband, Gavin J. Grant.
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