Noah Soudrette's Reviews > Magic for Beginners

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
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it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy

The first story is called "The Faery Handbag" is a tale about a girl's grandmother and her magical handbag. The whole thing is a bit of an obvious allegory for life, particularly the life of women and elders. Still, it's very bittersweet and a short interesting intro to the collection.

The second story is called "The Hortlak" and is really both brilliant and stupid. The whole thing is a bizarre expressionist dream about working retail and loving a woman. I feel very close to this story. It's reason enough to pick up this book.

The third story is called "The Cannon" and is a nonsensical story that reminded me a great deal of Baron Munchhausen. I admit to liking the Q&A format, but on the whole, it's totally disposable.

The fourth story, "Stone Animals" has a lot of creepy potential but ends up being a chore to get through. Here, Link's cleverness and quirkiness really hamper the story. The whole thing screams "look how clever and quirky I am" not, "look at these characters and this fascinating story". This one was a real lost opportunity. If only Link would stop worrying about seeming clever.

The fifth story is called "Catskin" and is quite good. It's the most fantasy/Grimm's fairy tale in the book so far. It is very dark but also very touching in a way and seems to deal with the relationship between mothers and sons (in this case a witch and her son). I ended up feeling quite sorrowful for both parties.

The sixth story is called,"Some Zombie Contingency Plans" and while I thought this would be a fun story, at first all I could feel is that it was rambling on way too much. This story's biggest strength is its ending, which came as a general surprise to me and was quite chilling, especially for a story that I thought was either going to be romantic of sad, or fun.

The seventh story, "The Great Divorce" has some amusing ideas about the dead interacting with the living, but in the end the story is mostly fluff and doesn't really contribute anything.

Story eight, "Magic for Beginners" is made all the more frustrating by having greatness in its sights, and failing to capitalize on that opportunity. The characters here are great, and the fantastical elements aren't all that bad, but I couldn't help feel there's simply no satisfactory ending provided, and I don't really feel like digging for a subtler one.

The last story, "Lull" I really couldn't get through. I took four tries at trying to finish it but was just plain disgusted, as it is the culmination of everything I think is wrong with this book. Link's focus on being "clever" and what she imagines as "literary" only hinder her excellent writing ability and end up producing a story that can only be satisfying to a reader with a similarly infantile misconception of writing.

To sum up. Kelly Link has a great technical writing ability and a great imagination. Sadly, this is all lost to a strong vein of snobbish literary twaddle. So called "magical realism" is a load of dingo's kidneys and is really just fantasy writing by people who fear the nerd connotations on such a categorization.

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Reading Progress

February 24, 2009 – Shelved
September 28, 2009 – Shelved as: fantasy
Started Reading
September 29, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by rachel (new)

rachel Enjoyed your review, Noah. I have a very similar reaction to Kelly Link's work and you've summed it up well.


message 2: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bard You nailed it in this review. I thought this book was rubbish.


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