Paul Eckert's Reviews > Magic for Beginners

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
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Dec 01, 2009

it was amazing
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Read in December, 2009

This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Link, and I’m thoroughly impressed. The stories in this collection will make your head spin, in a good way, like going on a fun literary acid trip.

Link’s style is very literary, but without any pretentiousness or unnecessary complexity. The sentences are delicious, and each one seems to hold its own truth that can be validated or contradicted at any moment. There are no morals or conclusions spoonfed to the reader. Instead there are fantastical characters that reflect the complexity of everyday life, caught in situations that have no easy answers.

While the style tends toward the literary, the characters and subject matter tend toward the speculative and magical realism. Zombies make regular occurrences in several stories, sometimes as regular convenience store customers, other times as possibilities that should be planned for. We also get to see haunted houses, witches, talking cats, human cannon balls, fairies, and other magical happenings. In “The Faery Handbag”, a grandmother possesses a purse with a magical world inside. In “Lull”, a group of men call a phone line where sexy girls make up stories for four dollars a minute. Every story is varied and different, but with a similar lyrical voice.

I think Link’s stories are best read in one sitting. If I stopped in the middle of one, and picked it up several days later, I found myself forgetting what happened. This isn’t necessarily bad. Rather, each story is like a wonderful, synergistic hallucination where the sum of each story’s parts is more than its mere premise. These are stories that are not merely read but experienced.
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