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Stranger Things Happen: Stories Paperback – July 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 11 fantasies in this first collection from rising star Link are so quirky and exuberantly imagined that one is easily distracted from their surprisingly serious underpinnings of private pain and emotional estrangement. In "Water Off a Black Dog's Back," a na‹ve young man who has never known personal loss finds that the only way he can curry favor with his lover's physically afflicted family is to suffer a bizarre amputation. The protagonist in "Travels with the Snow Queen" reconsiders her fairy-tale romance when she deconstructs the clich‚s of traditional fairy tales and realizes that their heroines inevitably sacrifice and suffer much more than their heroes do. Link favors impersonal and potentially off-putting postmodern narrative approaches, but draws readers to the emotional core of her stories through vulnerable but brave characters who cope gamely with all the strangeness the world can throw their way. In the book's most effective tale, "Vanishing Act," a young girl's efforts to magically reunite herself with her distant family by withdrawing from the world around her poignantly calls attention to the spiritual vacancies and absence of affection in the family she stays with. "The Specialist's Hat" features twin sisters whose morbid obsessions seems due as much to their father's parental neglect as their mother's death. Although a few of the selections seem little more than awkward freshman exercises in the absurd, the best shed a warm, weird light on their worlds, illuminating fresh perspectives and fantastic possibilities.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Link offers strange and tantalizing stories--contemporary fiction with a fairy-tale ambience--that explore the relationship between loss and death and the many ways we try to cope with both. She boldly weaves myth and fairy tale into contemporary life, drawing inspiration from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, from the fairy tale of Cinderella, from the writings of C. S. Lewis, and from the true story of the Donner party's descent into cannibalism. Meet Humphrey, one of Zeus' many illegitimate sons, and June, his girlfriend, who decides to travel to Hades to bring Humphrey back. Learn the rules of being dead, and find out what really happened between Kay and the Snow Queen. Ask yourself what would have happened to the prince if he had never found the girl whose foot fit the glass slipper. Link uses the nonsensical to illuminate truth, blurring the distinctions between the mundane and the fantastic to tease out the underlying meanings of modern life. Bonnie Johnston
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Small Beer Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520003
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kelly Link's debut collection, Stranger Things Happen, was a Firecracker nominee, a Village Voice Favorite Book and a Salon Book of the Year -- Salon called the collection " alchemical mixture of Borges, Raymond Chandler, and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Stories from the collection have won the Nebula, the James Tiptree Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards. Her second collection, Magic for Beginners, was a Book Sense pick (and a Best of Book Sense pick); and selected for best of the year lists by Time Magazine, Salon, Boldtype, Village Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Capitol Times. It was published in paperback by Harcourt. Kelly is an editor for the Online Writing Workshop and has been a reader and judge for various literary awards. With Gavin J. Grant and Ellen Datlow she edits The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror (St. Martin's Press). She also edited the anthology, Trampoline. Kelly has visited a number of schools and workshops including Stonecoast in Maine, Washington University, Yale, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, Brookdale Community College, Brookdale, NJ, Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, NC, the Imagination Workshop at Cleveland State University, New England Institute of Art & Communications, Brookline, MA, Clarion East at Michigan State University, Clarion West in Seattle, WA, and Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia. Kelly lives in Northampton, MA. She received her BA from Columbia University and her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kelly and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, publish a twice-yearly zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet -- as well as books -- as Small Beer Press.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Topham on August 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Kelly Link is a marvel. I can't remember the last time I was so excited about a new writer, and these wonderful stories about travel, feet and footwear, and the intricacies of relationship are some of the finest pieces of short fiction of the last decade. 'The Specialist's Hat,' 'Travels with the Snow Queen,' and the indescribable 'The Girl Detective' combine horror and humor with fragments of mythology and popular culture, all shot through with a deceptively simple and utterly engaging narrative voice.
These stories are unquestionably fantasies, but Link is one of those rare writers who understand fantasy's potential to give shape to such basic human realities as longing, isolation, and the need for love. Some of these pieces are experimental in form and content, but even these stories reveal a directness and emotional honesty that is all too rare, not only in genre fiction, but also in the increasingly mannered and self-referential fictions of postmodernism.
They are also endearingly odd. These stories concern a woman who only seduces cellists, a farmer with a collection of artificial noses, and tap-dancing bank robbers. Strangeness is simply a pervasive feature of the landscape, a reminder that the peculiar is an inescapable fact of daily life.
These are, quite simply, some of the best short stories that it has ever been my pleasure to read. Buy this book. Buy two, and give the other to someone you really like. Trust me on this one: you won't be disappointed.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Kelly Link makes everything magical. Her words have lived inside my head since the day I opened this book. I don't care if you're a half-dead tweaker or a Head of State in a facist regime or a normal person who's just looking for something that'll make a plane ride less cramped and smelly...this is your book. It's for you. Waiting right here. The stories are spectacular in their breadth and their whimsy and their wonder. And then you can come back and re-read them, and they've changed a little, because you've changed a little...and the reading process becomes so pleasant and sublime that the other books on your shelves are going to get jealous.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By JulieS on December 10, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the review of this book on and just had to rush out and buy this book. For a book published by an independent press, I was very impressed with the physicality of this book, how it is put together, the cool illustration on the front from "The Girl Detective." Kelly Link is really different from just about every modern writer out there. As well, each story in this collection is different from each other. Her style is really diverse, and impossible to really describe fully, but she always takes you in new directions that you wouldn't expect. Some of the stories affected me more than others, but there was not one in the collection that bored me. And for those of you who grew up on Nancy Drew like I did, the last story will really amuse you. If you are sick of all those books now that all seem as if they've been written by a computer or a room full of random monkeys (...), you should definitely check out Kelly Link.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Leah Lionheart VINE VOICE on March 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Stranger Things Happen" is Kelly Link's freshman work of fiction. Within it are eleven exquisitely crafted short stories which range from weird to the truly bizarre. It is difficult to catogorise Link's writing, as it seems to straddle science fiction and fantasy, narrative and fiction, real and unreal.
"The Specialist's Hat" is really one of the spookiest stories I have ever read. It is loosely written (as are many of the stories), which - rather than impeding the text - makes it easier to adapt. Her writing seems to permeate right into one's head, letting the reader formulate each story by themselves while being gently urged on by Link. She guides, but does not dictate, the reader. As a result, one makes each story one's own: This compounds how generally creepy her writing is.
The stories are also puncutated with truly odd characters. In "Water off a Black Dog's Back," the boy's girlfriend's father is a bizarre character. He is lacking a nose, and therefore replaces it with a prosthesis according to circumstnace -- sometimes a wooden one, sometimes a steel one. Link again keeps her writing somewhat vague, but defined enough to paint a rather striking - and oddly frightening - picture of rural life under her twisted pen.
The fact that this is Link's first book shows, however. While her writing is strong (she shows remarkable talant), there are immature aspects to it, as well. Her stories can be somewhat "plotless" - they are more like literary sketches of disturbing scenarios. Although, this is also what renders her writing so captivating: She makes a story out of some strange event. She does not present a problem to be solved, a climax, a resolution.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lady detective on June 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was astonished by most of the stories in this book- literal: dropped jaw, that was amazing, how can i become friends with this woman so she can tell me stories at night before I go to bed?
Kelly Link manages to weave fairy tales, the paranormal, modern relationships, aliens and other bizzarities (I know that's not a word, but it should be) into some of the freshest, coolest fiction I've read in a long time.
If you're looking for unsettling ghost stories, cousins who make themselves disappear, women that travel the underworld Orpheus style with twist on top of twist. This IS the book for you. (Even if you didn't know you were looking for those things.)
I'd hate to go into great detail. It would ruin the magic of these incredible stories.
If you like Aimee Bender, Stacey Richter, and/or Neil Gaiman during his Sandman days. Read no further, buy this book.
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