Clowes doesn’t miss any of the detritus. All the tiny, strange, lonely, teenage, summer-before-college plot strings are there in the book, flapping around. And the two main characters, Enid and Rebecca, are grasping at these strings, fumbling to hold onto the narratives of their past, alternatively struggling to tie together a narrative for their future. I’d recommend this book to any reader, maybe 8th grade and up. You know that dorky kid from high school that carried around either a beat up copy of Catcher in the Rye, Cat’s Cradle, or 1984 in his back pocket? I wouldn’t be surprised if Ghost World had joined those ranks. I just got the movie in the mail and can’t wait to watch it.
Zombies are True
Link, Kelly. Magic for Beginners. Orlando: Harvest Books, 2006.
The nine stories in Kelly Link’s second collection are fantastic, meaning incredibly good and also containing elements of fantasy. They are innovative and down to earth, about people, the things people do and feel. Some of the most sparkling gems in this collection are “The Faery Handbag,” “The Hortlak” (my favorite), “Stone Animals,” and “Magic for Beginners.” The collection does not ostentatiously defy genre, but perhaps simply disregards the literary market’s desire for such superficial distinctions. Link’s style is confident and innovative, borrowing from various traditions, most notably fantasy, horror, and fairy tale—humbling and improbable vestiges of life, worlds that exist only between the covers of the book. But don’t all fictive worlds only exist in this capacity?
Link achieves the nearness and reality of the world by oscillating between the ultimately fantastic and the simple basic truth of human reaction and interaction, what is and what is not. In Link’s work, zombies exist as incidental, assimilated, mythic, harmless, feared, fictive, and real. Zombies, like haunted objects and animated cats, can be considered in their relation to action, to private thought, to the larger continuing world. In “The Faery Handbag,” as well as other tales in this collection, the shocking, inventive, and unfamiliar are crafted with beauty and a sensitivity to human interaction—attention to a character’s inner world as well as the outer. These crossings of people, in and out of each other’s minds and physical worlds, is what is real. In “Stone Animals,” Link explores this human interaction in a haunted, mysterious setting. The plot folds in on itself in repetition, similar to how time and interaction repeatedly fold in and out for the characters.
A reader of literary fiction may look askance at Link’s work, what has been called fantastic or fabulist, and wish to pass preliminary judgment based on preconceived notions of reality. But there are often opposite ways of getting at the truth, and in Magic for Beginners Link has bravely forged her own path, a path any open reader will be drawn through, surprised by, pleased by, amazed by, and ultimately affected by.
I’m too lazy to compile a best of list for 2007. Also, I feel like ’07 slipped by without enough reading of contemporary work on my part. I did manage to almost read everything ever published by Eudora Welty, but, again, that’s not new. And, I read my share of student essays…So, I direct you to a fabulous best of list, compiled by Steph over at Natual/Artificial.
Kelly Link will read in Atlanta this month, along with Sarah Gorham. I am not familiar with Gorham’s work, but Link is one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her collection of stories Magic for Beginners is one of the most interesting, startling, colorful, and memorable books I’ve read. My three favorite stories from this collection are “The Hotlak,” “Stone Animals,” and “Magic for Beginners.” Zombies, rabbits, magic, and fabulation aside, Link’s work is full of, simply, good stories. I was so excited about her work that I’m sure I looked like a mute idiot back at AWP in Atlanta last February when I all of the sudden realized I was standing at the booth for the press she co-founded, Small Beer Press, and of course she was standing right there too.
The reading is Thursday February 21 at 7:30, in the Troy Moore Library at Georgia State University; it is open to the public. Earlier that day the New South’s Writing Workshop will host the third annual Conference on Literary Publishing, which is sponsored in part by Five Points and Poets & Writers. However, I believe the Conference may only be open to students and faculty at GSU.
Five Points will be at AWP in New York City this year: January 30-February 2. Last year, the convention was in our hometown, Atlanta, and it was a blast. I, regretfully, am unable to make it this year. But be sure to come visit my colleagues at booth B68 at the book fair. We have new bear badges and great deals on subscriptions.
SUB-LIT is accepting submissions for the next issue and beyond. I need art, photography, high quality photos of original tattoo work. Check out the latest issue. Spread the word to artists and writers.
Edward Hirsch will read at Georgia State University on March 17, 4:00 in the Troy Moore Library. Why anything is scheduled on St. Patrick’s day, I don’t know. But you should go anyway.
Steph has a new post up at Natural / Artifical: “Three New-ish Fairy Tale Picture Books.” I wish I had those books and illustrations in front of me right now!
In the last two years, there have been a few new fairy tale picture books that I have fallen in love with. Here they are, in order from “Wow, that’s great” to “Holy crap, I worship you.”
Short story writer Nikitas fills his engaging, atmospheric first novel, set in upstate New York, with Swedish mythology and American carnage. The life of 15-year-old Lucia Luc Moberg, who dresses goth and rebels against her mother, irrevocably changes after a trip to the mall with her S.U.N.Y. professor father, Oscar. Stealing a few CDs for her friends from a music and video store, she runs to the bookstore to find her father and begs him to leave immediately, feigning illness. Unfortunately for Luc, far worse awaits the Mobergs in the mall parking lot—an armed gunman who shoots and kills Oscar. The murder sets off a violent chain of events that tears apart the Mobergs and their community. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates, who provides a blurb, will in particular enjoy this unrelentingly dark and brutal novel with its ironic twists.
Edited to add: Derek Nikitas is giving a reading at Wordsmiths at 2:00 on Sunday. Be there.
Stuart Dybek is going to read at Georgia State University (Troy Moore Library, 9th floor GCB) on Thursday October 11th, at 7:30. I can’t wait. His story collection The Coast of Chicago, which came out in 2004, is one of my favorite contemporary collections. As a whole collection, it is up there with my favorite collections from Alice Munro, Barry Hannah, and Kelly Link. I’ve read it several times. Stories that linger in the mind include, but are not limited to, “Death of a Right Fielder,” “Hot Ice,” and “Pet Milk.”