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RAD BUT CAVEAT
Y’know how people will be like, ‘I don’t really listen to rap stuff, but I really liked that Nas album,’ or whatever, and then you know that Nas album is probably not super representative of hip-hop? I don’t really read fantasy, or sci-fi, but I fuckin love Kelly Link. I’m like, I guess these count as fantasy stories lots of the time, and that’s clearly the community Ms Link is coming from, and about which she tends to talk, but still, her stories engage me in a way that genre stuf
There are nine short stories in Kelly Link’s collection, Pretty Monsters. I picked this up without realizing that I’d actually read two of them before, both offered in other YA short story collections I had loved. Unfortunately, those two stories proved to be the best of the lot. There is one other story I liked. The rest have promise but tend to fall a bit flat. Reviews of each are below. Overall, however, 3 good stories out of 9 is not a great record. It’s really frustrating because Link is a
The Wrong Grave
A boy decides to dig up his dead girl friend’s grave to retrieve some of his poetry that was buried with her. Unfortunately he discovers the girl in the grave isn’t exactly resting peacefully and she certainly doesn’t seem to be his girlfriend. The close narration and tone of this, the intimate author voice and rich descriptions promised a good story. It never delivered however. The story seems to contradict itself, little is explained and there seems to be no overall point to the story – it’s merely a vaguely creepy (though even that lacks any real punch) vignette with no real plot, character progression or change.
The Wizards of Perfil
This short story was originally offered in the Firebirds Rising anthology and is one of the two that I really enjoyed. Onion and Halsa are cousins living in a country torn apart by war. When Halsa’s mother desperately needs money she sells one of the two children to a servant of the wizards of perfil. Who exactly the wizards are, and want they want with the children they buy, is a mystery however. This story is alternately told from Onion and then Halsa’s viewpoint, switching back and forth as it progresses. The descriptions are lush and enchanting and the characters really engaging. This story has something to say and a nice little twist at the end. Overall really satisfying and wonderfull.
Magic For Beginners
This story centers around a group of friends all obsessed with the same TV show called “The Library.” The plot of said show seems insanely bizarre as are the characters. Like much of this story, which jumps all over the place with vague coherence the title of the story is a mystery to me. It doesn’t seem to belong or apply to the story at all. The worst part is, the main characters are likable and well drawn and in a story with an understandable plot, pace and destination they WOULD be magic, at least as far as readers are concerned. Instead this just ends up an absurd jumble of images with little meaning and largely unmemorable. Weird for weird’s-sake does not make a story.
The Faery Handbag
This story was originally published with the Faery Reel anthology which is utterly fabulous. Again this is one I’ve read before and discovering it again was like finding an old friend. I fell completely back in love. In this story the main character, Genevieve, tells the story of her grandmother’s enchanted handbag which holds an entire faery village in its depths. The descriptions are sweeping and beautiful, the pace perfect and the characters enthralling. This is the sort of story I want to wrap around myself and wallow in. Perfection.
The Specialist’s Hat
Twin girls are being watched by an other-worldly babysitter who tells them the story of the specialist’s hat. Once again it feels like someone took the outline of a good story, put it in a blender and hit puree. The results are confusing, less than spine-tingling and well kind of annoying actually. A possibly carnivorous hat, that’s all I got out of this story. Jumbled images, lots of nice sound bite descriptions and no sense whatsoever. Very disappointing.
Bunkhouse six goes on an overnight camping expedition after being warned by bunkhouse four that there’s a monster in the woods. Once again lots of promise and eerie creepiness and kablam it all blows up and goes to hell. I hate it when a good story just falls apart. This particular story loses it when the monster shows up. He’s chatty & carries an address book and likes ripping the heads off kids and slurping out their brains. The reader is plunged from Dean Koontz creepiness into a morass of ridiculous overdone 2nd grade level ghost story gore. No point, and again disappointing.
A young rising-soccer star is kidnapped by his father to Costa Rica ahead of a flu pandemic and the two get caught in a week-long quarantine with other airline passengers in a slightly dystopian future. This story frustrates me SO much. It was really fricking good! Right up until the story resolution. It felt like the story was building somewhere and it just never got there. I find no deeper meaning in the story, little resolution and it feels as if an ending was just tacked on so the story would meet its word count. I really liked the characters, they were all well drawn, the dialog and description were great and the initial plot seemed well done. This could have been an awesome story, but never got there. Again, the title seems little connected to the actual story and main characters.
The Constable of Abal
Ozma and her mother must flee the city of Abal after her mother kill’s a constable. Ozma takes the constable’s ghost with her, tied to a ribbon, and befriends him. This is one of the more appealing stories in the anthology with a definable beginning, middle, end and coherent plot. Yay! The usual rich descriptions and intriguing characters. It doesn’t quite capture me the way The Faery Handbag did, but I still really liked it. Link is an excellent writer when her game is on.
The final story in the collection and the title piece. This is actually two stories woven together – in the main story a group of girls kidnap one of their friends and her sister for an “ordeal” ignoring the two girls’ insistence that they must be home at 5 to take medicine for a medical condition. In the second story, one of the girls from the first is reading about Clementine, a girl who has been obsessed with a boy named Cabal her whole life and ultimately pursues him to Europe only to discover some very disturbing things about his new life. Pretty Monsters ends with a surprise third story, just to completely muddy the waters and make the thing more confusing. I get the inference of what happened in all three stories and how they are loosely linked. I just don’t find much there to really like. It’s disjointed and again, little point, no larger picture or story being told and disappointing overall.
Η Κέλι Λινκ γράφει σύγχρονη διηγηματογραφία. Ανήκει στην προμετωπίδα μιας καινούρια Αμερικάνικης γραφής: ευφάνταστη, απρόβλεπτη, συχνά προκλητικά άτακτη, χρησιμοποιεί αστικούς μύθους, παραμύθια και ε.φ. Συνήθως ό,τι έχω διαβάσει από το είδος με αφήνει με ανάμεικτα συναισθήματα. Ιστορίες άλλοτε όμορφες, πολλές φορές αβέβαιων επιμύθιων και μυθοπλαστικών προθέσεων. Είναι γεμάτες υποσχέσεις από ανθρώπους που ξέρουν την φανταστική λογοτεχνία τους και ξέρουν και την σύγχρονη, πιο διανοούμενη λογοτεχνί
Τι διαβάζει κανείς εδώ; Πολλά όμορφα πράματα, όπως για παράδειγμα βαρύθυμους νέους που σπάνε την μονοτονία τους με επικίνδυνα παιχνίδια, λυκάνθρωποι και βαμπίρ, αγόρια που ξεθάβουν τάφους για να πάρουν τα θαμμένα ποιήματά τους πέφτοντας στο φάντασμα της κοπέλας τους. Μαγεμένα βασίλεια και μάγοι, εξωγήινου, ιστορίες μέσα σ’ άλλες ιστορίες.
Η Κέλι Λινκ έχει φαντασία αλλά έχει και μια καταπληκτική γραφή. Θα θυμίσει πιθανώς τον Νιλ Γκέιμαν. Η φωνή της ποικίλει, μεταλλάσσεται από ιστορία σε ιστορία θυμίζοντας τις χαμαιλεοντικές παραλλαγές του μεγάλου βρετανού γύρω από το παραμύθι: άλλοτε ονειρική αφήγηση, άλλοτε εξιστορεί με αυτήν την εθιστική κινηματογραφική φωνή που κάνει τα πρώτα 10 λεπτά των ταινιών τόσο εθιστικά – πως είναι το ξεκίνημα του “στάσου πλάι μου”; Η Κέλι Λινκ δεν κάνει κοιλιές, δεν χάνει τον ρυθμό, παρά χορεύει τον αναγνώστη στους ρυθμούς που επιλέγει. Εφαρμόζει αφηγηματικές τεχνικές που ποτέ δεν επισκιάζουν την ροή, ωστόσο ο αναγνώστης που ενδιαφέρεται για αυτά, τις ξεχωρίζει. Όπως για παράδειγμα στο surfer, όπου μέσα από τα ματιά του εφήβου πρωταγωνιστή, αδρά και παραπλέυρως σκιαγραφείται ένας πατέρας που υπό μια άλλη γωνία θα ήταν ο πρωταγωνιστής της ιστορίας. Βρίθει έξυπνων, πολύχρωμων μεταφορών όπως το κορίτσι που δεν μπορεί να κρατήσει μυστικά. Αν της πεις για το πάρτι έκπληξη “θα τιναχτεί σε χίλια μικρά κομμάτια που θα φωνάζουν ‘πάρτι έκπληξη!’ ‘πάρτι έκπληξη!’. Έχει χιούμορ, ξέρει να γράφει συναρπαστικούς, σκερτσόζικους διαλόγους. Έχει τόσα κι άλλα τόσα που θα θέλαμε από την φανταστική λογοτεχνία. Και, είμαι σίγουρος, μπορεί να κάνει πολλούς βιβλιόφιλους που αποστρέφονται το αλλόκοτο, να το αγαπήσουν.
Δηλώνω οριστικά και αμετάκλητα: είμαι φαν της!