Adventures in Reading

Short Stories: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, 2008
December 10, 2008, 11:55 am
Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: , , ,

Of contemporary short story authors Kelly Link is one of my favorites. I fell in love with her collection Magic For Beginners and was pleased to discover this most recent collection Pretty Monsters in the young adult section. The collection includes stories from her previous collections, previously published stories, and the title story “Pretty Monsters” is unique to the book. Link includes fantasy, supernatural, and horror in the book as well as zombies, teen angst, and a 200-year-old grandmother. And as always Link’s ever-precise language usage has somewhat of a haunting effect on the book.

Where Pretty Monsters stands apart from Link’s other collections is that it includes some lengthier stories in quite different styles. For example the “The Wizards of Perfil” or “The Constable of Abal” are more reminiscent and thematically similar to traditional fantasy stories while in the past her fiction has been more skewed, more surreal. Some of the longer tales have made me curious if Link is possibly considering a novel, but personally I’m satisfied with the short stories: so please keep them coming!

Conclusion: Keeper.


The stack


The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
Writing Women in Central America by Barbas-Rhoden
13 Ranchwater by Steven Maus
Things That Make Us [Sic] by Martha Brockenbrough
Days of Awe by Achy Obejas
Arsenic Soup For Lovers by George Z. Post
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
The Giants by J.M.G. Le Clezio
The Flood by J.M.G. Le Clezio
The Lullaby of Divine Music by John Addiego
Being Written by William Conesco
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
Nation by Terry Pratchett

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?