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.



Fiction: Arsenic Soup for Lovers by Georgia Z. Post, 2008

Georgia Z. Post’s short story collection Arsenic Soup For Lovers is a self-published collection from iUniverse. It’s a thin book at only 62 pages with 25 stories. With a bit of an Elizabeth Berg feel to them, the rather bare bone stories look at affairs, marriage, and middle age.

These stories are Reader’s Digest-esque and rely on “zinger” endings. I grinned a couple times but overall the collection is very formulaic. Some of the ideas are interesting, but the collection would have greatly benefited from some further workshopping.

I think I’ve learned my lesson to stay away (far away) from iUniverse.

Conclusion: Tossed.

(Available at Bookmooch.)

Other opinions: BookZombie, The Things We Read, and Diary of an Eccentric,



Short Stories: More Best American Short Stories 2008

Best: ? American: x Short: 14.5 Story: x
From The Atlantic, Bradford Tice’s “Missionaries” is about two boys within the Mormon Church who are field operatives in converting new members. Like military recruiters with statistical goals, the older of the boys confronts possible converts with a terrible ferocity while the younger boy develops a crush on this more mature figure.

In Bradford’s comments, he mentions that Mormonism is not meant to be the center piece of his story, but how can it not be? The story is interesting and exemplifies the hypocrisy that can surface from religious practitioners, and it’s even given me pause to consider it a few days after finishing the story. But I have to wonder how it’s a “best” story if it doesn’t fulfill the author’s objective?

Best: ? American: x Short: 13 Story: x
From The Antioch Review, Mark Wisniewski’s “Straightaway” is told through an African American male voice and describes a life of brushing against achievement and success, but ultimately falling short. Three friends, with their high school basketball glory days behind them, are hired to remove a barrel from a woman’s property and are paid a large sum of money in doing so as long as they ask no questions. The three end up at the race track considering their position.

The hovering anticipation of the story is will they be caught? They were seen abandoning the barrel and the paranoia of the occasion is apparent throughout the story. It was a so-so story and I didn’t really care for it.

Best: ? American: x Short: 11 Story: x
From The Atlantic, Tobias Wolff’s “Bible” is the culture class between a white and female teacher instructing at a Catholic school and the Arabic and immigrant father of one of her pupils. Both characters come equipped with a good deal of baggage, and the father recklessly confronts the teacher with the suggestion of violence in regards to his sons academic problems.

Tobias Wolff is a name I hear and see frequently and his short story “Bible” was my first experience with him, and between this and “Missionaries'” by Tice, I don’t think I’ll be picking up The Atlantic. I don’t like my short stories to be obvious and I found myself scanning this tale because of it.

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