Adventures in Reading

Short Story: Kelly Link’s The Specialist’s Hat

The current short story discussion at A Curious Singularity is on Kelly Link’s “The Specialist’s Hat,” and as I’m the one who suggested the title, I thought I ought to get around to posting on it!

I discovered Kelly Link by accident. I was looking for something good, fun, and fantasy-esque to read and I stumbled across Magic For Beginners. I then found myself a little in love with Link.

“The Specialist’s Hat” has a great deal going on through theme, build-up, and playing on some of the creepier aspects of childhood. Twins Samantha and Claire are “half-orphaned” after their mother passes away and now find themselves with their academic father, whose researching a “bad” and little-known faux poet Rash, living in the haunted house and museum Eight Chimneys. The story is interspersed with the poetry of Rash and narrative describing the house.

What could have been an obvious story is told with a certain children’s quality, a simplistic view, and a child’s observation. The story unfolds matter of factly, but flows into the unresolved ending that Link so often uses.

As a reader, it’s curious to investigate what’s real and what’s not real within “The Specialist’s Hat,” and Link provides well-balanced detail that never resolves this issue: Who is the woman in the woods? Is the baby sitter the dead daughter of Rash? What is the specialist’s hat? Is that the Specialist or really the father? What the hell is the Specialist? Is this a story about the over active imagination of two bored, little girls staying up late and ultimately recovering from the recent death of their mother or is Eight Chimneys truly a haunted house with a “gonna getcha” ending?


1 Comment

I read this in an anthology last year and I enjoyed it a lot – particularly the way the ending allows several interpretations. I really need to read those Kelly Link e-books. I suspect she’s an author I’ll fall in love with.

Comment by Nymeth

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