I don’t do short stories, as a rule. They always frustrate me because they just give me a taste of something, rather than bringing a story to fullness. I haven’t read any short stories in probably 10 years – I have no interest in short story compilations or anything of the kind.
Magic For Beginners made it into our stack when JD randomly bought a bunch of cheap books from a small publishing house, through some special. I didn’t know it was a short story collection when it was the only book I packed for a weekend away. I’m glad that it was the only book I packed, because I had brought anything else I would have dismissed it out of hand and never had the pleasure of reading it.
Kelly Link’s short stories are absolute gems. They are mostly rooted in real life with fantastic elements thrown in to shake up the worlds of the characters, but a few are straight fantasy. They all have great hooks, bizarre and intriguing storylines, and thought-provoking literary wanderings. Months later I still find myself pondering the implications of some of the stories, or what might have come next had the story been a whole book. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself thinking about “that weird dream I had” before I realized that I was actually thinking about one of the stories. Talk about impressive, to be able to grab you and hold you and integrate with your brainmeats so well.
I did have one gripe about the compilation as a whole. Ms. Link loves to end her stories with a sense of melancholy longing (or at least that’s the best set of words I can come up with to express the slightly sad, achy, wanting-more feeling her stories inspired). She does it incredibly well, especially considering the shortness of her stories. The problem is that almost every story ends that way… a fact that becomes glaringly apparent when you’re reading all of the stories back to back to back. An emotional tug starts to lose its effect when repeated that many times, so I started to get indifferent after 3 or 4 stories. Still, not her fault so much as mine for reading the whole book straight through, rather than breaking up the stories over a few month period.
So, consider my aversion to short stories somewhat assuaged. I’ll do my best not to be so horrifically biased in the future!