karen's Reviews > The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories

The Woman Who Married a Cloud by Jonathan Carroll
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Sep 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: hey-shorty
Read from September 16, 2012 to September 02, 2014

i fiiiiiiinished! and it only took a couple years!

i am going to review this slowly, as i read it, the way greg is with his giant anthology. hold your applause until the end. or don't. this "review" might just be for me, as i savor a bunch of stories i have already read and celebrate jonathan carroll quietly with myself.

Mr. Fiddlehead

this is probably my favorite jonathan carroll story. it has all the elements that make him him: quirkily-named bull terriers (in this case, "elbow"), fountain pens, the blurring between imagination and reality, and deep dark betrayal. o, yes.

Uh-Oh City

this is one of his fairy-tale-feeling stories. i love the central idea of this one - of god as a consortium, but at times it feels a little cheeky to me. the turn is great, though, and i do love this story overall, but there is something unpolished and embryonic about it that makes me feel a little shy for him, somehow.

The Second Snow

sad. spooky. dogs.

The Fall Collection

this is a non-magical jonathan carroll story that still feels, somehow, as though there is magic there, something subterranean bubbling under the surface. it is very simple and very moving, and it has just enough of those jonathan carrolly flourishes to make you squint to see if anything extraordinary is happening. but,no.just a man facing his impending death, impeccably dressed.

Friend's Best Man

god, that ending! this is one of his knockouts. full of magic and loss and unlikely friendships and a dog, naturally, and oodles of ambiguous tension. i like this story very much. and vitamin d!!

The Sadness of Details

another great deity-speculation piece. i love the way jc manipulates mythologies and big questions into something that makes sense to mortals; a more practical interpretation of the ineffable.he does it frequently, and well. and naturally they contradict each other when viewed big picture, but the wealth of alternative realities he imagines always gets my blood flowing.

Waiting to Wave

this is jonathan carroll's sad little story about how magical thinking can break our already-broken hearts. i frequently have a sense of wanting to spend more time with carroll's characters, and this is one of those stories.

The Jane Fonda Room

well, what did you think hell was going to be like??

A Quarter Past You

the truth will not set you free. the truth is a horrible houseguest who brings upset and discord where there was once only joy. a really chilling story about fantasies becoming horrible reality.

My Zoondel

this is one of his closest-to-straight-horror stories. my favorite is when jonathan carroll tries to give explanations as to "why things are the way they are." and this is one of the best of those.

Learning to Leave

a funny anecdote leads to a sobering realization.

Panic Hand

a lot of good material in this story, but it still makes me uncomfortable (if you have read it, you know why), which unfortunately taints my appreciation for the more traditionally carrolly story that surrounds the ick.

A Bear in the Mouth

i am not crazy about this story, but it does feature venasque, and if you are going to be a carroll scholar, you should probably get used to seeing that name around. this story just didn't do anything for me; usually carroll takes universals, and makes them magical with his explanations. the situation he is focusing on here has the semblance of truth - of possibility; when you check your wallet you always have less or more money than you thought you did, but if you have ever been poor, you know exactly how much money you have at all times. you kind of have to.so it's a cute idea, but it doesn't have the same magic happening as when he offers hypotheses about more relatable phenomena.


you know how you always fantasize about going back in time, knowing what you know now?? yeah, no, that would actually suck.

Tired Angel

this story is actually more brutal than a quarter past you, because there is no love in it. with quarter, at least there is love that goes bad because of a bad decision, this one is just pure poison. shudder.

The Dead Love You

this is one i would love to see turn into a full-length novel. the "twist" is so abrupt, which is great, but i would so love to get backstory. and i do not understand the ending to this story at all, but that's not uncommon in the carroll-verse.


short. sweet. sad. lovely.

The Life of my Crime

yay! this is the first story in this collection that i hadn't read before! this is another one of his fairy-tale type stories, where someone is punished in a real-world setting by magical means. this one feels like it would work very well as one of the anecdotes in outside the dog museum - it feels familiar, even though i know i have never read it.

A Wheel in the Desert, the Moon on Some Swings

an optimistic man faces his impending blindness with determination and a plan for preserving his memories only to be waylaid by jonathan carroll's preoccupation with the soul. this is not my favorite story. i don't understand why he bothered to set up the character with such great details and backstory only to undermine it with what amounts to a spiritual margin-doodle daydream.

A Flash in the Pants

houses, like dogs, start to look like their owners, for better or worse. your house loves you, misses you when you go, and is disappointed by your choices. you have made your house very sad.

Black Cocktail

review here, to save space

Crimes of the Face

oddly enough, this is another non-magical story about a dapper man, or rather about the son of a dapper man, but it is not the same dapper man from the fall collection.. got it?

Fish in a Barrel

ignorance is bliss, and sometimes a forgotten memory is simply the mind's best method of self-preservation. there is a danger in trying to remember, because while there is a place where it's all known, there is a price, and there will always be someone who takes delight in your pain. crane's view shout-out!

A Gravity Thief

Harvey had to say it again, just to taste the words on his tongue. "Fuck her." They tasted delicious. Like a hot dog with all the trimmings.

despite that closing passage, this one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. i'm not sure if i am meant to be pleased that a weak and petty man has found a way to hurt the people who have hurt him. because i'm not. what i get from this story is that a hateful and bitter person discovers a magical way to strike back at the pain of a heartache he was at least half responsible for and instead of owning up to his own culpability and shortcomings, he just puts more poison into the world. hooray?

The Great Walt of China

but this one - this is pure, wonderful jonathan carroll. it is a vincent ettrich story (yayyyyy!), and while i really need to revisit "his" novels to see how this story folds into his chronology, it's a perfect carroll piece even for people who have never read anything else in the ettrich-verse. carroll is so good at the "what-if" scenario, where life and fate are fluid and orchestrated by curious, ambivalent mystical forces that give us the opportunity to make huge, defining choices for ourselves - to make sacrifices whose ripple effects we do not comprehend at the time: what would you be willing to do? what would you be willing to give up? what will you come to regret? love this one.

The Stolen Church

jonathan carroll's version of how secrets can complicate a relationship. i love this story. it's funny and it's real - or, magic-real, anyway, and it's full of all the great details that his stories always have that makes you want to know more more more. it's pretty much perfect, down to that last pop of a line.

Alone Alarm

another really good one, and yet another riff on carroll's seemingly endless fascination with the self and encountering other selves and blah and blah, but i never get bored with his treatment of this theme which says something. i also love this title and the last sentence.

Asleep in Wolf's Clothing

a douchey man a finds himself in a fun and flattering situation gone mad. a fame fantasy about the dark side of success and the loss of what matters. a little too "noo yawk" for my taste, but it is used to comic effect.

The Language of Heaven

another vincent ettrich story!!! poor, poor vincent - the man who loves all women more than anything else in the world has the weirdest damned girl problems.

The Heidelberg Cylinder

review here, to save space

Elizabeth Thug

what happens when you try to be too clever in the already-overcomplicated dating game and find yourself outwitted. very funny.

Home on the Rain

the most alluring and powerful magic hides behind the things we see every day - the things we pass by so often, we stop even noticing them. until we do. and that ending - to me and my particular beliefs - brrrrr - chilling.


this is a really lovely story about grief and the mourning process, the weight of memory, and the importance of objects. as always, carroll drops little nuggets of wisdom along the way, like a less-didactic The Celestine Prophecy:

"We don't pay enough attention to things. We know that, but we do it anyway. Only after it's over, or they're dead, or it's lost, or it's too late do we realize we've been speed reading life or people or whatever and missing the details."

it's a sad hollow little story, but with the possibility of hope in the unwritten after.

Water Can't Be Nervous

argh! this is that thing he does that frustrates me SO MUCH! at the beginning, it's an interesting story with good energy and then - LO! - it pans out and twists the scenario into something completely different (a la The Stolen Church) and it's fantastic and you are totally on board but then YOU GO TOO FAR, CARROLL!! and he tries to do one more twist that just causes the story to completely deflate and it turns into a sad flop.

East of Furious

this one seems to have listened to my rant, and there is only ONE major story-altering twist. and it's much better for it.

Nothing to Declare

the diaspora of lies, stealing other people's stories, and how it's not always such a bad thing. this is pretty much a perfect short story.

Let the Past Begin

another little fake-out by carroll where you think the story is going to go in a certain direction, follow a certain character, but then - wheeeee - look over here at misdirection hands!

The Woman Who Married a Cloud

women. even when they get to design the perfect man, they aren't satisfied…

holy moly!!! i finished this book and this review! hooooray! high five!

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 82) (82 new)

message 1: by Laura (new)

Laura It *sounds* very very interesting but the cover looks terribly cheesy!

karen it is not my favorite of his covers, but considering i spent 75 dollars on it - eek - i am pretending it doesn't look like a bad romance novel

message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura Well the cover guy does look very conflicted about the human condition. I bet the hand pulling back the slingshot is shaking with ambivalence!!

message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura And the collection does sound excellent, truly.

karen i mean, most of it is stuff i have already read and has been published elsewhere, but i am a jonathan carroll fanatic, so i kind of had to own this. and re-reading them, slowly, is nice.

message 6: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I love (man crush) this guy. I got to meet him at a signing in Austin, Texas. He was hilarious and charming. So charming that he convinced most of the women attending the signing to sit on his lap for an individual picture with him. He kept cracking jokes keeping everybody smiling. I drove ten hours one way to get a chance to meet him which is insane, but I'm glad I did. I had a pile of books for him to sign. I too ponied up the $75 for this book and I'm looking forward to a leisurely read as well. Maybe a story or two a day.

karen Liberty wrote: "karen wrote: "it is not my favorite of his covers, but considering i spent 75 dollars on it - eek - i am pretending it doesn't look like a bad romance novel"

It really does look like a bad romance..."

this is just a special-order thing, i tried to get it into the store, but it refuses to be ordered. and i think subterranean press only did a really limited print run. ): but i would love to try to fool some romance readers...

jeffrey!! a fellow carroll-lover! squee!! i saw him when he came to new york, but he did not ask me to sit in his lap!! i would have. i collect his books in different languages, because i love all of his covers so much (this one excluded), so i went to both of his new york signings with these stacks of books in greek and japanese and french, and he thought it was very funny. he should come to america more.

message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason $75?!

karen dude, i know. but it is a limited edition, signed and numbered. i thought it would be more glamorous - subterranean frequently puts out these expensive leatherbound books, but at the time, i was blinded by glee, and it was right after christmas when i placed my order, so i was flush with holiday fervor!! i blame joel.

message 10: by Jason (new)

Jason How does Joel factor into it?

message 11: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten karen wrote: "Liberty wrote: "karen wrote: "it is not my favorite of his covers, but considering i spent 75 dollars on it - eek - i am pretending it doesn't look like a bad romance novel"

It really does look li..."

I had a manuscript that had circled around his publisher's office and different editors had made notes and comments. He was fascinated. He kept reading the comments and making snide responses. It was great. He kept asking me where did you get this?

I do collect British covers of authors I liked if they had alternative cover art from the American. I do have an Italian hardcover of Hocus Pocus by Vonnegut because...hey I was in Rome and on a Vonnegut craze. That is so cool that you collect Carroll in translation. Awesome! I think he still hangs out in Austria???

karen joel is the one who gave me the heads-up about the book. or maybe i already knew and his telling me was the impetus that made me buy it, i don't remember.

ooooh, manuscript. that is so cool. and i love that he hadn't seen the notes before, and got kind of an inside view of it. that is hilarious. yeah, he still lives in vienna, as far as i know. dammit. when i was in vienna, it was before i had discovered him. maybe i should go back and stalk him gently.

i haven't been actively collecting them for years now, because it got to be too nutty - i have like 200 or so, but i might start again... ohhhh i feel the collector's urge rising once more!

message 13: by Jason (new)

Jason That'll teach you to listen to that rude little troll!

karen hahah i hear he ruined goodreads!

message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown I'll be interested to know what you think, Karen - Mr Carroll grabbed me by the reading earhole from the first moment I read him (Bones of the Moon), but has been a little less persuasive in recent times. It would be good to know that the form we love has returned.

karen well, this isn't new material. this book contains all of panic hand, the heidelberg cylinder and black cocktail, and then stories that were published elsewhere in anthologies and lit journals and stuff. i have read most of them before, this is just a slow re-immersion. is bones the only one you have read?

message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown karen wrote: "well, this isn't new material. this book contains all of panic hand, the heidelberg cylinder and black cocktail, and then stories that were published elsewhere in anthologies and lit journals and s..."

No, I started with "Bones of The Moon" and recently read "The Ghost in Love" and in between read almost everything else that I know of bookwise ("Glass Soup" still waits), including "The Panic Hand". Particularly loved "From The Teeth of Angels" and "The Land of Laughs".

karen my three favorites are land of laughs, child across the sky, and outside the dog museum.

panic hand is what i am re-reading now - it makes up the first chunk of this book.

message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown Three very good choices too, Karen. And "Child Across the Sky" does of course have that cracking first line - very few have bettered that one, except maybe Marquez and Tom Robbins.

karen god, i wish that book was still in print. it makes no sense to me. in my country, there are only like 6 in print.

message 21: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Outside the Dog Museum is my favorite. Although in From the Teeth of Angels he had me on the edge of my seat because he almost described GOD. He took me to the edge and then backed away. Land of Laughs is just damn fun. I need to reread it again soon.

karen he loves almost describing god. i approve

message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown It was in December 2000, thirteen years after I first read "Bones" and enjoyed many of his books in between, that I found nestled on an early page of "Marriage of Sticks" (page 30 in my copy) the following, as said by Miranda's friend Zoe, on the subject of the dead: "Whenever I see a hearse go by or hear someone's died, that's the first thing that comes to mind: now they know." If the man hadn't hooked me before, that was the moment it happened. I'd been thinking the same thing myself for years. He just said it so much better.

message 24: by Jac (new)

Jac local library hasn't a clue. (sad)

karen yeah, i doubt a library will have it until it (hopefully) gets a proper print run. i can't get it into the store either.

message 26: by Jac (new)

Jac if i can't have it, the more i want it. fortunately my desire for such things as dope has been replaced by books. your reviews are dope!

karen thank you! i just realized i have fallen behind reviewing this one... better catch up!

message 28: by Jac (new)

Jac went to the library w/ 15 picks (mostly yours) nada. amazon has never let me down but ravishes the budget. love the feel of a book, do i dare go tablet?

karen try abe.com - you can usually find things cheaper than on amazon....

message 30: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown One of these days, I should try buying books off of the Internet. But then where do I get all that exercise, carrying 30 books at a time? If I peek into the distance though I think I can see my own personal 21st century approaching ever.. so.... slowly..

karen you can carry them home from the mailbox!

message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael Brown Even there I fail. I have a letter-box about 10 yards from the sofa in my tiny house, which is roughly the size of the knobble on a grasshopper's knee. The exercise is only a little less strenuous than the trip to the wine in the kitchen. Oddly though, I did acquire two of the Carrolls from Amazon. But I got a grown-up to do it while they were getting their own stuff. Only one fly caught in the Web at a time...

karen yeah, guess it's off the the bookstore for you!! drink the wine first, then you get the exercise, but you also get a nice buzz on.

message 34: by Bill (new) - added it

Bill i really wish my copy of this would get here!!

i have 3 of your books now, karen. as soon as i get the other 3, i'll be sending you a big box of books!

karen yay yay yay!!

yeah, waiting for this book was hard. that's what i get for pre-ordering so far before the pub date.

message 36: by Maureen (new)

Maureen karen-inspired jonathan carroll love-in! i need this when it is cheaper. or those other collections. in the meantime i continue to enjoy his twitter and facebook posts. that guy is pretty awesome. :)

message 37: by Jac (new)

Jac 43 bucks on amazon, yikes!

karen yeah, limited print run books do get expensive.

Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* How can a woman marry a cloud? :D Guess it's beyond me

message 40: by Jac (new)

Jac my ex claims she married a cloud. i am fabulous!

message 41: by Stuti (new)

Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship just how long is this book? will you finish it first or will spongebob acquire his driver's license? :P

karen i know... i read more, and forgot to review them, and then i got to the novella, which i have already read before, but i just wasn't in the mood to read again at the time, and then it got sucked into the morass. i really have to get back on that. i am the worst.

message 43: by Stuti (new)

Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship seems like a really wild ride.

message 44: by Stuti (new)

Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship and no, no you are definitely not THE worst.

karen i get distracted. i will pick this up after i get through my killer netgalley/library stack.

i got greedy...

message 46: by Stuti (new)

Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship I love it when you get greedy. You take more, you give us more as well. Hee hee!

message 47: by Bill (new) - added it

Bill hey karen, how are you liking the new job?

karen but then i get all backed up on reviews and i have to scratch my brain to think of how to review!

karen Bill wrote: "hey karen, how are you liking the new job?"

bill!!!! i am liking it more and more each day! i am getting better at it, but i still miss the bookstore like crazy.

message 50: by Bill (new) - added it

Bill that's awesome...i'm so glad you're happy there. what does your job entail exactly?

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