Mona's Reviews > Magic for Beginners

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
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Weird Modern Fairy Tales for Adults by a Writer with a Unique Voice

3.5 stars

My introduction to slipstream short story writer Kelly Link was her recently issued Get in Trouble. I got off on the wrong foot with that short story collection and did not finish it.

I'm glad I gave her another chance. I liked this collection, Magic for Beginners, a lot better, although it, too had some drawbacks.

The author's stories are extremely creative and her voice is totally unique (although there were some vague similarities with Karen Russell's short stories). She's a very talented writer with a good command of some convoluted material. Her characters have great names. She's got a wacky sense of humor and a great ear for dialogue, especially that of kids and teens. Some of the stories vaguely tie in with others. Her favorite themes include the relationships between the living and the dead, animals with human characteristics, witches, zombies, etc.

On the down side, her stories often seemed a bit too twee and cutesy. Her work could have benefited from a dollop of gravitas here and there, although I suppose then it wouldn't be Kelly Link.

Here's the rundown on the stories in this collection. I listened to the audio.

1. "The Faery Handbag". I think this might have been the best story in the book. Rebecca Lowman vocalized it really well. The narrator's grandmother, Zofia, claims to have been born in a country called Baldeziwurlekistan. Zofia tells the narrator the story of her fantastic handbag, which contains worlds inside it.

2. "The Hortlak". Wonderful and strange story about two guys who work in an all night store near Ausable Chasm (upstate NY near the Canadian border). Apparently the Chasm is a sort of borderland/conduit between the living and the dead. Some of their customers are Canadian zombies (who pass through the Chasm to get to the store?) They are trying to figure out what to sell to zombies. They have a female friend who works the overnight shift in an animal shelter and doesn't like the fact that she has to kill the dogs in the shelter. Kirby Hayborne read this story expertly.

3. "The Cannon". This was a strange story about a cannon and its relationships with dead and living people. The narrator is called Venus Shebby and used to be beautiful. Venus was fired from a cannon to a different country where she stayed. Her brother was fired from a cannon. I think I'd need to reread this as some of the details escaped me. Arthur Morey and Meera Simhan narrated, and the audio also features Lorna Raver

4."Stone Animals" is a wonderful tale about a family who move into a house (in upstate NY) that's overrun with rabbits and other strange creatures, including some stone statues that seem to come alive at night. Cassandra Campbell read the story quite well.

5."Catskin" delineates the death of a witch and the life of her "children" (stolen from humans) and the histories of some strange cats, including one called "The Witch's Revenge". This was like a demented version of a Grimm fairytale. Mark Bramhall was the reader.

6."Some Zombie Contingency Plans" A guy named Soap who just got out of jail for a minor art theft crashes a party at a suburban house. He meets Carly and her little brother, Leo. I liked this story. This one's read by Robbie Daymond

7."The Great Divorce". Alan Robley (living) and Lavvie Tyler (dead) are considering a divorce, as there are problems in a "mixed" marriage (between dead and living people). Lorna Raver narrates.

8."Magic for Beginners". This is a very meta story about a boy, Jeremy Mars, who lives in Plantagenet, Vermont, and his parents and a very popular internet TV show ("The Library") The story is meta because Jeremy is watching the show with his friends and relatives and at the same time (without knowing it) is a part of the show. Jeremy wants to save the show's main character, Fox. His mother, a librarian, and his dad, a horror novelist, have a fight and his mom, to get away from her husband, takes Jeremy on a road trip to Vegas. The dialogue, especially among the kids, was very realistic. But the story was way too long and it dragged. The audio narrator was Meera Simhan.

9."Lull". Good and very bizarre story. It's too convoluted to give a summary. Ed, who's separated from Susan, calls up a paid-by-the-minute "reader" at a party and she tells him a bizarre story about himself and Susan, involving the Devil, aliens, a cheerleader, and green Susan beer from which grow multiple Susans. Plus, the narrative runs backwards. A weird tour-de-force. Danny Campbell is an excellent narrator.
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Reading Progress

November 24, 2014 – Shelved
November 24, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
May 16, 2015 – Started Reading
May 16, 2015 –
May 16, 2015 –
May 16, 2015 –
May 17, 2015 –
May 17, 2015 –
May 17, 2015 –
May 17, 2015 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Pablo (new)

Pablo This looks super interesting! Hopefully you did like it :)

Mona Pablo wrote: "This looks super interesting! Hopefully you did like it :)"I had mixed feelings about it, but I think I liked it more than not...

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