Tim Storm's Reviews > Pretty Monsters

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
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Apr 10, 11

Read in April, 2011

Here's the thing about Kelly Link's writing: even those stories that don't end in a satisfying way still stick with me for a long time. I first experienced this with "The Hortlak," the uber-weird story in Magic for Beginners that ultimately doesn't make much sense and that lacks resolution. But I kept thinking about the story, and eventually re-read it, taking as much or more pleasure in its world-building the second time around, even though I knew how it would (or wouldn't) resolve.

Link is less experimental in Pretty Monsters than she is in some of her other collections. The tales in this one are not as non-linear as, say, "Lull," or as meandering and random as "The Girl Detective," or as piecemeal as "Shoe and Marriage." In fact, all of the stories in Pretty Monsters have a pretty pleasing plot trajectory--at least, pleasing to me, a guy who's pretty conservative when it comes to story form. Even the title story "Pretty Monsters," which has a metafictional commentary on story resolution, still remains pretty linear through much of its 66 pages. And "Magic for Beginners," which subverts story expectation time and time again, creates such a fun world to read about.

Ultimately, I'm not all that patient with experimental fiction, which is why both Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen at times disappointed me. But I can't say that I was ever disappointed with Pretty Monsters. Even the least traditional stories in this collection were pleasing. That said, some were certainly better than others. "The Wizards of Perfil" is phenomenal. As is "The Faery Handbag." "The Wrong Grave" and "Monster" are a lot of fun. "Magic for Beginners," "The Surfer," and "The Constable of Abal" create imaginative and addictive worlds that I enjoyed inhabiting for a short while. But "The Cinderella Game" was just okay, and I wasn't a fan of "The Specialist's Hat."
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