No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010/16: Magic for Beginners -- Kelly Link

"I want [the story] to be about good and evil and true love, and it should also be funny. No talking animals. Not too much fooling around with the narrative structure. The ending should be happy but still realistic, believable, you know; and there shouldn't be a moral although we should be able to think back later and have some sort of revelation." (p. 248)

The person speaking those words is doomed, doomed: they are in a Kelly Link story and ... okay, yes, some of the above are true of each story in this collection, but none of them are all true at the same time.

This is the thing she likes about backwards. You start off with all the answers, and after a while, someone comes along and gives you the questions, but you don't have to answer them. (p.249)

The narrative structure of Link's stories is seldom straightforward. Beginning, middle, meandering, looping, nesting ... the end of the story, the fates of the characters, are seldom explicit. Sometimes it's as though there's the beginning of another story instead. (Just like life.)

There's a dream-logic to some of the stories: an arbitrary task that must be done to perfection before things can be put right; something or someone that is 'really' something else, recognisable to the dreamer -- I mean the reader; that kind of almost scornful explanation of the obvious that isn't obvious at all.

And Link -- or at least The Author -- is present in her stories. "They argued -- I'm not allowed to tell you what they fought about." She's at the mercy of her characters and her narratives. She'd love to tell us more, but it's not permitted.

The stories are peppered with casual brilliance ("Life, like red hair or blue eyes, is a recessive gene"): occasionally I was too distracted by the details to concentrate on the whole. And I was never quite sure if I'd actually understood anything. But ... yes, I think back later and have some sort of revelation.

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