**spoiler alert** Most of this book is 5-star worthy. My favorite piece is the title story, so I'll review that:
In an interview with Kirsten Kowalewsk...more**spoiler alert** Most of this book is 5-star worthy. My favorite piece is the title story, so I'll review that:
In an interview with Kirsten Kowalewski, Kelly Link said, “what I hope is that it's a bit like going to a Penn and Teller magic show, or a Ricky Jay show, and being told how the trick is done even as you're watching the trick.” In the interview Link was explaining how her story Magic For Beginners showed the relationships stories have with readers (or watcher/listeners). The duality of being told a story while being shown how storytelling effects people is shown in the way Kelly Link uses metafictive techniques. When readers first see Jeremy and friends dressing up as their favorite characters from The Library, they become symbols for their own fandom to The Library. When Talis and Jeremy start getting closer to one another, Link uses tension to show the literal changes stories can make in our lives. In Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners, she uses metafictive techniques, fandom and story-effect to illustrate the relationship between reader and writers. In Magic For Beginners, Kelly Link uses Metafictive techniques to represent the relationship between stories and their readers. Throughout “Magic For Beginners” the story is told from the perspective of a third-person narrator, a separate entity from Jeremy, though Jeremy is the main character. This distinction is only addressed in the first two paragraphs of the novella. The concentration on Jeremy’s life and perspective makes it therefore easy for readers to see the story along the same lines as him, forgetting the extra layers to the story. This can result in less attention being paid to any meta-levels of fiction and more devoted to the “internal story”. As Link said in the interview with Kowalewski, she wants to tell the story as well as point out to readers how stories affect their readers. This directive is oriented when the narrator states in the first paragraph, “You’ve never seen The Library on TV, but I bet you wish you had. (Page 204)” An Amazon one-star reviewer, David Cortesi, summed his feelings of the novella in a review of the book: “Despite her wide knowledge, wit, and clever turns of phrase, Link is essentially a lazy writer who lacks the will-power to finish a story. She shows a fundamental lack of respect for her reader and a fundamental distrust of the people she creates. No question she sprays the page with vivid little inventions, a peppery goulash of ideas. But all the clever invention, all the witty inversions of classic tropes in the world cannot disguise the fact that she treats both her reader and her characters in a cavalier, shabby way, and time after time ducks the fundamental responsibility of the tale-spinner: finishing the tale.” However legitimate his misgivings are about the novella, he seems to ironically miss the point. In his craving for an ending to Jeremy’s tale, he complies to the narrator’s only stated assumption: “You’ve never seen The Library on TV, but I bet you wish you had. (Page 204)” The point of all these different levels of metafiction seem to allow for Jeremy’s position on fandom to be more easily substituted with that of real people, and to the astute reader, even oneself as the story is told. In Magic For Beginners Kelly Link uses fandom to illustrate the relationship between stories and their readers. Jeremy and his friends frequently get together to dress up like characters from their favorite show, The Library. This show of fandom parallels the fans of such events as conventions and certain movie premiers. At for example, a new Star Wars movie release, fans typically line up for the midnight showing, often dressed up as their favorite characters from the films. People’s obsessive fandom clearly has the potential to make even social stigmas irrelevant. Speaking to Elizabeth, Jeremy says, “This is terrible! What if there’s a new episode of The Library while I’m gone? Who am I going to watch it with? (Page 234)” Here Jeremy expresses as much worry about missing an episode of The Library as he does about not being with any of his friends. That there’s a social risk involved gives readers a point of reference to understand the power this particular show has over Jeremy, in turn reminding readers of the power that stories can have over us. If he’d said this to someone who didn’t share his fandom, it probably would have been damaging to his relationship with the other person. No one likes being unfavorably prioritized by a television show, so clearly stories can affect our real lives in unexpected and literal ways. Kelly Link also uses story-effects from tales to illustrate the changes they can have on people in the real world. Jeremy’s mother wanted to get away from his father because of a scene in which he wrote Jeremy into a book and killed him off. Though it was just a story, it brought some literal changes as a result of the emotions the story generated. Jeremy and his friends make it clear that they have to keep in touch with each other to make sure they don’t miss an episode of The Library. The change that the show has on their lives is absolute and amorphous. The kids are essentially fans-on-call. Whenever the show comes on, wherever they are, they are determined to go out of their way to see the episode. Possibly the clearest metaphor for the influence stories have on our lives is when the internal Library starts to leak into Jeremy’s world. Whether or not Fox is real to him seems irrelevant. Jeremy believes it is and it prompts him to not only willingly go on the road trip, but eagerly. He believes he talks to Fox on the phone, who then gives him directions to go to a library and steal a book. The entire journey to this library is a direct effect The Library has on Jeremy’s life. His relationship with the show had become something more direct at this point. In Magic For Beginners, Kelly Link creates a story that serves to show readers how stories relate with their readers, as well as to be a story on it’s own accord then finally to show how the influence of a story can seep beyond the pages and affect a person’s life. The relationship is therefore threefold. What a reader can expect from Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners is to learn from a manual that teaches by example, how a story can change a reader. By putting a metafictive frame around Jeremy’s story, readers can see that their situation is much like Jeremy’s in relation to this story. Jeremy is worried about what has happened to Fox, and by the end of the novella, readers can expect to be worried about what will happen to Jeremy. We’re left in the same state of anticipation that Jeremy is left in. As fans, and that’s the point of the story. Link doesn’t care about what happens to Fox or Jeremy, but rather, whether or not the reader does. (less)
In an interview with Daniel Clowes about his graphic novel Ghost World, Joshua Glenn of the Hermenaut said, “The end of Ghost World, though, although...moreIn an interview with Daniel Clowes about his graphic novel Ghost World, Joshua Glenn of the Hermenaut said, “The end of Ghost World, though, although it's ambiguous, seems to suggest that Enid may have finally settled—that's the wrong word—made some kind of leap into a look, an identity that she can live with.” The search for identity that lead up to this realization was no spontaneous epiphany. Enid Coleslaw is a girl uncomfortable with the idea of identity. Early in Ghost World, Rebecca and Enid are at a diner when a school mate reveals Rebecca’s last name to be a twist of the word doppelganger: Doppelmeyer, which introduces one of the motifs of Ghost world. Then, stemming from the idea of doubles and sameness comes conformity, which is one of the forces that Enid is mindful of as it drives her search for her identity. Authenticity is one of the problems Enid was brought to in her flight from conformity. In Ghost World, Daniel Clowes uses the motifs of doppelgangers, conformity and the idea of authenticity to exhibit Enid’s search for identity and the satisfaction she expects of that. Doppelgangers in Ghost World are used to represent people that fit into a stereotype and this gives context to Enid’s journey for self by defining exactly what she doesn’t want. On page 28 a man leaning out of a window named off famous people that passerby’s looked like. When referring to Enid he says, “You look like Zelda Gilroy” referring to the fact that she is rather more plain in beauty compared to Rebecca. Rebecca he refers to as Peggy Lipton in her role on The Mod Squad where she fits into the conventional idea of physical beauty (long blonde hair, thin). This stating of physical doppelgangers serves to give context to the relationship between Enid and Rebecca. For example, Zelda Gilroy’s role in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was to be the underdog in a series of love triangles and Julie from The Mod Squad was a beautiful blonde girl. The parallel lay in Enid and Rebecca’s love triangle with Josh where Enid, in love with Josh must overcome the physical challenge of being less beautiful than Rebecca. Enid spent most of Ghost World fleeing from doppelgangers. When she was in her “punk shtick” she came across an old friend, John Crowley, who used to hold to the same “punk shtick”. This created a punk double of what Enid was that day and when she saw how phony John was, it lead to her abandoning this identity, showing that doppelgangers are the catalyst force behind Enid’s search for identity. She is frightened to identify herself against other types of people when she starts seeing similarities between herself and them. When she met John Crowley, she also noticed that although he still played into the same punk ideals, he was essentially a sell-out by conforming to big-money corporations. Conformity in Ghost World serves as a reference point for two things: Enid’s antipathy and affinity in context of her search for identity. When she meets John Crowley early in the book it’s revealed that he was one of her punk-friends from high school. He was a skinhead and graffiti-vandalizer, standing for anti conformity at the time, but in present context he’d become the ultimate conformist in the form of a corporate grunt. Enid’s own defiance of conventions and conformity gave their meeting friction and being told by John to “forget about that punk rock shit” so dismissively made her realize how much of a convention the idea of punk rockers has. She immediately dropped that shtick. Although consciously Enid spurns all signs of conformity, her friend Josh is an example of what good it would actually do her. Josh doesn’t worry about self-identity to the same degree as Enid, he is comfortable with who he is. Enid is mistaken in her quest for the perfect self-image because she doesn’t realize that an image doesn’t bring about satisfaction, but the other way around. If one is satisfied with who they are, then whom they are defines their image. Enid is on a metaphorical Quest for the Holy Grail, expecting a given image to create her satisfaction with herself. Enid also has problems differentiating between conformity and phoniness, making her quest all the more unlikely. Authenticity is what ties doppelgangers and conformism to Enid’s quest for identity. Enid realizes that being a doppelganger (a follower or copycat) is essentially letting oneself being defined by another person, but she seems to miss the point that in trying to find an identity that is purposefully not a doppelganger, she’s still allowing doppelgangers to steer her towards an identity. Whilst in her punk rock get up, John Crowley claims on page 24 that he would cause anarchy (stereotypical goal of punk rockers) from the inside as a corporate businessman. If anything however, it came across as an unconvincing, hypocritical argument given his history as a skinhead. Enid senses this phoniness and doesn’t want anything to do with it, later ditching her punk gag – her connection to John Crowley. She saw his phoniness as conformation. When Josh is introduced into the book he’s shown as a boy who’s identity is defined by his values, unlike John Crowley, who contrives his present identity to match his skinhead values. These examples of phoniness and authenticity make it clear that Enid is running from one and seeking the other. Her intimate moment with Josh later in the book shows that she’s seeking this truth of identity. When she runs out on Josh, it’s a type of turning point for Enid – she’s realizing that Josh won’t bring about any sort of epiphany or happiness in hers elf at all. This is when she realizes that she’s in love with the authenticity of identity Josh has, not Josh specifically. If Enid allowed the intimacy to continue it would essentially be her way of lying to herself about what she wants, she would be phony to herself so she fled from Josh in the end. Enid is doomed, much like a ghost, to inhabit the limbo between self-satisfaction and exterior identity, and her change in the book comes when she realizes and accepts this limbo. At the end of the book Enid sees Rebecca and Josh sitting together at the same diner they’d always gone to, looking if anything settled, paralleling their satisfaction with themselves. Enid expects satisfaction from a given identity where, as shown through Josh and Rebecca at the end, one mustn’t be so self-aware to be satisfied with one’s identity. Enid, essentially adopts the identity of searching for identity as her permanent self in a sort of meta-identity. Her quest ends with her realization and acceptance of the impossibility of her happiness with an outward identity that is true to her self. Bob Skeetes confirms this fate to forever search on page 78, “She has a haunted quality, as though she wants to tell you something… I see a road ahead with many forks, all of which lead, it seems, to gloom and darkness… she hesitates…” (less)
I loved how Mr. Comeau wrote this book. Just brilliant and originally done. Who'd have thought to tell a story while giving characters depth and criti...moreI loved how Mr. Comeau wrote this book. Just brilliant and originally done. Who'd have thought to tell a story while giving characters depth and criticizing myriad different corporations all in the form of cover letters? Not an easy thing to do and he not only does it, but makes an interesting story out of it too.(less)
The day I started reading this book was the same day I walked across Boston to the recruiter's office. Yea, I did get to the chapter On the Rainy Rive...moreThe day I started reading this book was the same day I walked across Boston to the recruiter's office. Yea, I did get to the chapter On the Rainy River and yes, I cried. I had to hold off a few minutes before entering the building for the sake of saving face.
Tim's book is a Vietnam War book about other things. There are a few traumatic events that get repeated over in different ways. This is because these events aren't something one can 'get over' and bringing closure to the events would be the same as saying they are no longer emotionally jarring.
The style is perfect. I don't think I've ever said that before, but I honestly think it for this case. It goes from memoir to short story, to lie and truth.
A beautiful book, more words just can't do it justice.(less)