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Magic for Beginners: Stories Paperback – July 1, 2014
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The nine stories in Link's second collection are the spitting image of those in her acclaimed debut, Stranger Things Happen: effervescent blends of quirky humor and pathos that transform stock themes of genre fiction into the stuff of delicate lyrical fantasy. In "Stone Animals," a house's haunting takes the unusual form of hordes of rabbits that camp out nightly on the front lawn. This proves just one of several benign but inexplicable phenomena that begin to pull apart the family newly moved into the house as surely as a more sinister supernatural influence might. The title story beautifully captures the unpredictable potential of teenage lives through its account of a group of adolescent schoolfriends whose experiences subtly parallel events in a surreal TV fantasy series. Zombies serve as the focus for a young man's anxieties about his future in "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" and offer suggestive counterpoint to the lives of two convenience store clerks who serve them in "The Hortlak." Not only does Link find fresh perspectives from which to explore familiar premises, she also forges ingenious connections between disparate images and narrative approaches to suggest a convincing alternate logic that shapes the worlds of her highly original fantasies. (July 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From The New Yorker
Link's second collection has a McSweeney's-like tendency to digress, but does so without irony. Whether describing witches filled with ants that carry pieces of time, or an orange-juice-colored corduroy couch that looks as if it "has just escaped from a maximum security prison for criminally insane furniture," these stories examine American middle- and lower-middle-class life from unexpected angles that mix fairy tale, science fiction, and zaniness. In Link's worlds, a village takes refuge in a magical handbag, and a convenience store serves zombies as an experiment in retail. Two stories with zombies is perhaps too many, though the first effectively marries humor and horror. Reading Link, one has a sense that sometimes a person needs to wander off for a better perspective, and sometimes a person simply needs to wander off.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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So readers as a warning, prepare to be baffled. But if you like strange you'll like her stories. It takes an open mind to appreciate them fully, and maybe a little time and deconstructing to understand the messages hidden within. Her insightful charming narrative voice definitely makes them easier to get through.
I must admit that I thought some of the stories superior to others; but, they were all wonderful. My favorites within this book are: The Faery Handbag; Stone Animals; Some Zombie Contingency Plans; and Magic for Beginners. "The Great Divorce" which won awards and was reviewed very favorably by critics was an excellent read but it just wasn't for me as captivating as the ones I mentioned above.
She writes with a new and unique viewpoint which I have not seen before. If you are looking for something original then I highly recommend this book. I found her after I had exhausted Neil Gaiman's work and was frantically looking for a new author. I can't wait for her to come out with new works!!
Reminds me of Francesca Lia Block and the Witch Baby books.
Magic for Beginners, is a collection of 9 stories. Having never read Link I went in not knowing what to expect. The first story, The Faery Handbag, was a winner for me. Odd and quirky are the first two words that spring to mind when I try and describe this story, and come to find out the rest of the stories make this one seem pretty normal. In this story a young woman searches for her grandmother's magical handbag, that contains a realm in which time runs at a fraction of the speed of our world.
The Hortlak, details the goings on of a 24 hour convenience store. Its sort of reminded me of Clerks meets Shawn of the Dead.
The Cannon, was the shortest story and I didn't care for it. Link has a very stream of consciousness style of writing. Sometimes its brilliant, other times, its just too disjointed and out there for my taste.
Stone Animals, had a very horror feel to me. While not a scary story really, I felt very disturbed at times while reading this.
Catskin, was like a Grim Brothers' fairy tail on acid. While reading many of the stories, I found myself baffled as to how someone thinks of stuff like this.
Some Zombie Contingency Plans, was my favorite story, not only does it have an awesome title, but it was the most realistic of the stories. I felt more connection to Soap than to anyone else in these stories.
The Great Divorce, is a story about a man and his dead wife. She was dead when they were married. People occasionally marry ghosts. This of course can be problematic.
Magic for Beginners, seems to be a favorite to take the Hugo for Novella this year. I can see why. This was a great story. How Link manages to craft a world within a world in such a short amount of space is amazing. The story centers around a group of teens and their love of the cult show The Library. The ideas she presents here are mesmerizing. I marvel at how her mind works.
Lull, was a bit anticlimactic after the wonderful title story. This story was again rather meta. Stories within stories.
As a whole I like the collection. Odd, weird, strange, and beautiful. I fully intend to read more by Link , and read more short fiction.
8 out of 10