Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link

  Magic for Beginners , by Kelly Link

Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link

Kelly Link wins. Magic for Beginners is a fantastic collection of stories. I'd never read her before, but I will very definitely seek out her other books. (Are there others? Yes.  Phew.) 

Not only did she remind me of a time when The Garment District didn't suck (and yes, anyone who wants to argue with me, it does too suck.  For the most part, the people that work there have the waaaay-too-cool-for-school snotty attitude, a lot of the clothes are fake vintage...  it's like a huge Hot Topic now. Gross. But the bit in Kelly Link's The Faery Handbag refers to a kinder, gentler, better stocked Garment District):

We had this theory that things have life cycles, the way that people do. The life cycle of wedding dresses and feather boas and T-shirts and shoes and handbags involves The Garment District. If clothes are good, or even if they're bad in an interesting way, The Garment District is where they go when they die. You can tell that they're dead, because of the way that they smell. When you buy them, and wash them, and start wearing them again, and they start to smell like you, that's when they reincarnate. But the point is, if you're looking for a particular thing, you just have to keep looking for it.  You have to look hard.

But she also used the word 'eldritch' not once, but TWICE—in two different stories. And she used in the proper Lovecraftian way, but in reference to things that Lovecraft never would have dreamed of including in his stories. A pajama top (in The Hortlak):

The pajama top was a color that Eric could not name. Dreary, creeping shapes lay upon it. Eric had read Lovecraft. He felt queasy when he looked at the pajama top.

...

"And you're okay with that?" Batu said. He yawned ferociously, and yawned again, and stretched, so that the pajama top heaved up in an eldritch manner. Eric closed his eyes.

...and a sofa (in Magic for Beginners):

But it's hard to keep your guard up at all times. Jeremy comes home from school, feeling as if he has passed the math test, after all. Jeremy is an optimist. Maybe there's something good on TV. He settles down with the remote control on one of his father's pet couches: oversized and reupholstered in an orange-juice-colored corduroy that makes it appear as if the couch has just escaped from a maximum security prison for criminally insane furniture. This couch looks as if its hobby is devouring interior decorators. Jeremy's father is a horror writer, so no one should be surprised if some of the couches he reupholsters are hideous and eldritch.

Obviously, it wasn't only those two things that made me like the book so much. Her stories were (and are) completely original and very surreal. She turned things that shouldn't be foreboding (like bunnies) into agents of total creepiness. She created a world where a boy inherits a phone booth in Vegas and there's a cult pirate TV show called The Library that may or may not be real. She created a world where live people get married to dead people and rely on mediums for marital counseling. She created a world where zombies visit a convenience store. She created a T-shirt that reads I'm So Goth I Shit Tiny Vampires.

Not only that, but aesthetically, the book is really nice, too. Nice enough that I want to look at more of the stuff that the publisher puts out.

Go and hit your local bookstore, grab a copy and read the story Stone Animals. (That's the one with the bunnies.) Or The Hortlak (That's the convenience store story.) If that doesn't make you an instant fan, she's probably not your thing. If she is, though, you're in for a total treat. I borrowed this one from the library, but I'm going to have to buy my own copy.