The Gentleman Recommends: Kelly Link

Book cover for Pretty Monsters by Kelly LinkBoo! One of my good friends* brought to my attention that the current month is October and that during this month we have a tradition of celebrating scary things, pretending we’re popular television characters or scantily clad healthcare professionals/coal-miners/zoologists and giving money to conglomerates whose main objective is to fatten and sweeten us so that should their monstrous rulers decide that human meat is preferable to veal, which I presume is an ongoing debate at their board meetings, we will be delicious and easily harvested. This month’s recommendation is typical in that she’s a brilliant writer and tends to write things that could be described as “weird” but less typical in that some of what she writes might frighten or unsettle you, thereby really putting you in the mood to dress like Seinfeld or a zombie with a large bra budget.

So, assuming you want more “weird” writing or are understandably addicted to the thrilling prose-eggs I lay like some sort of strange creature whose monthly cycle of creation culminates in a cursory inspection and a grimace, allow me to recommend Kelly Link.

Kelly Link has three collections of super-duper short stories. “Magic For Beginners“, which includes one of my favorite short stories ever, the anthologized-by-the-Best-Short-Stories-in-America-series, “Stone Animals.” It’s one of those unsettling stories I mentioned: a family moves into a new house and is disturbed to find that items keep becoming “haunted.” A toothbrush has to be tossed. A cat starts to hate the alarm clock. The office is off-limits. They paint the walls so often that the rooms become smaller. There’s a bunch of rabbits on the lawn. It’s one of those stories you wish could be stretched to novel-length, but then the ending comes in with a menacing whisper and it’s all like, “Boom, I guess that’s perfect.”

Also from that collection is a story in which a scrabble-mad grandmother’s handbag contains a faery kingdom to which she loses her husband for years at a time, while inside the handbag he’s only losing hours or days between visits to our realm to say hi to his (to him rapidly aging) wife and gather massive amounts of candy for his comrades. “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” is also a good story to read as you ramp up for this month’s monster worship, though I don’t think it’s going to be much help when the dead do rise.

The library doesn’t have her first collection, probably because it was carried off by werewolves or it disappeared when the light hit it at an ominous angle on a magical April morn, but I’ll still link you a taste of the awesome “Stranger Things Happen.”

Her third collection is “Pretty Monsters.” It’s the sort of crass capitalistic repackaging of mostly previously published stories with the intent of attracting a YA audience that you can expect from someone that routinely gives away stories and PDF files of entire collections on her website and has devoted her life to milking that most bountiful and creamy of cash cows, the short story. As the dust jacket says, it features “possibly carnivorous sofas,” “dueling librarians” and, horrifyingly, “a nationally ranked soccer player.”

Kelly Link gets lots of good reviews and even kindly gathers some on her website so that I can easily demonstrate how foolish of you it is not to be reading Kelly Link right now. Literally this instant, you’re reading this word right now when right above this word are links to some nifty stories. Bye already.

*yes, the friend was a calendar.

About Chris S

Widely regarded as capable of growing a beard, Chris has been a competent cat owner for over 8 years.
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