Saturday, November 2, 2013


I started reading this collection quite some time ago, when it landed on my devices via the Humble Bundle, but as I've discussed before on this blog, I've had trouble fitting short fiction into my reading life, to my detriment. At the time Stranger Things Happen came into this life again* I thought, hey, I'll put this on my phone so I have something to entertain me when I'm waiting for things like friends to show up for social engagements or doctor's appointments or oil changes. Yeah!

Only I have discovered that I'm not in those situations very often. All of my current circle of real life friends are as punctual as I am, for instance. I know!

So anyway, I had dawdled to about the 25% mark in this collection when I hit on this whole Bedtime Stories thing. And I couldn't remember any of what I'd read to that point, really, because my bout of waiting around with my phone were too few and far between. I realize I am probably a huge freak in this regard. That's okay.

All this is a roundabout lead in to the fact that I think I am now an unabashed Kelly Link fangirl. What really did it for me was "Travels with the Snow Queen" which re-imagines Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" (possibly my favorite HCA, though it's one I've always felt I've understood the least well. Deliciously enigmatic, is "The Snow Queen") in terms of an autopsy on a failed romance and the idea of a business that capitalizes on the need for these, all while still feeling very true to HCA's original story. This is quite a feat since the narration is in the rare and difficult-to-pull-off second person, a la, say, Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night A Traveler...

Other stand-outs include "Louise's Ghost" which tangles the reader in threads of ambiguity as it tells of not one but two characters named Louise and not one but two ghosts, one a more conventional (yet unconventional) haunting and one a bit more metaphorical that only comes into play halfway through the story. Like a good ghost story should be, this one is creepy as hell, but not necessarily in the way the campfire stories it evokes are; more in the way Margaret Atwood's stories of female friendship and female rivalry tend to be.

And some of the stories are just strange, like "The Girl Detective", a weird juxtaposition of Carolyn Keene (who didn't really exist, which still weirds me out) and the Brothers Grimm, and "Survivor's Ball, or The Donner Party" which threatens to get really terribly over the top creepy but stops short of that and settles for merely uncanny.

Link does have some tics that get cumulatively annoying, though; she loves breaking up her stories into discrete and often non-sequential sub-narratives, leaving the reader to struggle to relate them all together at story's end. Sometimes this winds up being more of a struggle than others, as in "Most of My Friends are Two-Thirds Water" which I'm still pretty sure I just didn't understand at all. I guess it's some kind of will-they-won't-they romance? With a fair amount of sex but not between the two who are framed as gonna-maybe-be-lovers? Meh. Maybe it's just because she tries to cram a Philip K. Dick salute in there where it really doesn't fit? Anyway, the night I read this one, I went to bed frustrated.

After all the others, I went to bed enchanted. So, ten out of eleven are brilliant. Not bad!

*Originally, I received a paperback copy from a friend in a book swap a few years ago, but this was right at the time my octuple elbow tendon trouble started making dead tree books a painful proposition, so yeah.

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