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COURTING DISASTERS AND OTHER STRANGE AFFINITIES: SHORT STORIES ... Hardcover – 1991
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They come to me on two very different paths, yet two that are entirely appropriate.
Courting Disasters (And Other Strange Affinities) by Nina Kiriki Hoffman has taken a very winding path. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was wandering through a used book store needing (not wanting) something NEW. Of course, such a need can never be filled directly (for that would render the world far too mundane and predictable), and must be fulfilled from side... sneaking up on the solution while it is lounging near a waterhole gazing at the clouds and pondering the nature of cheese (or linen, you never know). So... I asked the bookstore to help me. Not a clerk, the bookstore itself. Clerks are good at finding what you know you want, but only the bookstore can help you find what you need. Once I did that, The Silent Strength of Stones leapt from the shelf and into my hands... my first book by Nina Kirki Hoffman. I quickly gathered all that I could, but there were numerous volumes that were difficult to find. Several years later, I was at work... doing one of those late night server things... when I suddenly felt the overwhelming need to go to eBay and search. That is when I just happened to find an individual who was selling off the old Pulphouse/Axolotl volumes. These are hard to come by, partly because of very limit printed runs, and partly because axolotls only live in a single lake in Mexico. I imagine that it must be hard to run a printing press from a lake, which explains the limited editions. Anyway, that's how I managed to get almost the last of her books (including one in "staff red", oh the bibliophilic joy). A few weeks ago, I felt a similar urge to check the net again, and I found a copy of Courting Disasters . . . I'd only been looking for years.
This volume contains short Stories. There are Stories that make you cry with joy and others that make you cry with sadness and pain. This is Just and Proper, and Exactly What They Should Do.
"Voices in a Shelter Home" is a ghost story of the living. Combined with "Courting Disasters", the two stories serve as bookends that discuss domestic/relationship abuse. The first introduces us to a character who has put it behind her, but has not yet begun to heal. It's hard to read. The second gives us two characters, one who is running away from the patterns and the other who is oblivious to them (and a car, a tree, a mother and a ghost -- all vital to the story). The second ends with hope, and is a wonderful way to leave the collection.
Then, things get REALLY interesting.
* "Waiting for the Hunger" starts with a kidnapping and goes gothic from there. It's brilliant and should be read.
* "The Glass Mountain" is what it would be like if Nina Kiriki Hoffman wrote a Patricia McKillip story.
* "Lost Lives" is about the soul and strength in the face of adversity.
* "Variations on a Scream" is good on it's on, but was re-imagined much better in "The Skeleton Key" (collected in Time Travelers, Ghosts and Other Visitors). I found it interesting from a evolution of story perspective.
* "Echos and Mirrors" and "Housewife" are experimental fiction.
* "The Open Air My Grave" will pull out your heart and stomp on while wearing size 12 army boots... and make you like it.
* "A Step Into Darkness" is about child abuse and witchcraft. I do not know my friendslist well enough to directly recommend it, so I shall just say that it's good.
* "Rumors of Greatness" is hard to read, both due to the material and the writing technique.
* "Hushabye" is a very short and very haunting story about mental illness. If you're a writer, you'll likely appreciate the craft. Everyone else can just be haunted by the story.
* "Family Tree", "Out of Hand". and "Exact Change" are classic examples of Nina Kirki Hoffman's newer work. If you enjoyed A Red Heart of Memories and the like, you'll like them. If not, start with the more easily-available novels.
Now, the bad news is that Courting Disasters (And Other Strange Affinities) will be very hard to find, you might need to find one through a library.