Magic for Beginners – Reviews

Fri 31 Jul 2009 - Filed under: Authors, Kelly Link | Leave a Comment

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Best of the Year Lists:

  • Link’s stories … play in a place few writers go, a netherworld between literature and fantasy, Alice Munro and J.K. Rowling, and Link finds truths there that most authors wouldn’t dare touch.”
    — Time Magazine
  • “Link’s writing shimmers with imagination.”
    Salon
  • “A mind-bending blast, as funny, disturbing and poignant as anything I’ve read this year.”
    — Capitol Times
  • “The storyteller’s mantra — “It gets better” — come to life and multiplied.”
    — Village Voice
  • “Link’s powerful prose places this collection into a class of its own.”
    — Boldtype (2005 Notable Books)
  • San Francisco Chronicle.

Story Prize recommended reading list.

Reviews | UK reviews

“One of current fiction’s little-known treasures.”
— Time Magazine

“Dazzling…. One to savor.”
— Entertainment Weekly (A, Editor’s Choice)

— Washington Post Book World

“For Kelly Link, life is suddenly magic.”
— Detroit Free Press (Hillil Italie, AP)

Magic for Beginners (Harvest, $14), is worth picking up. Doing so will put you in the hands of a true conjurer.”
— Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Kelly Link is the future of American short fiction.”
— Alexis Smith, Powells.com Staff Pick

“Fierce and witty.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer

“These stories shimmer like impressionist paintings.”
— Montreal Gazette

“Kelly Link is the best short-fiction writer working in science fiction and fantasy today, and her new collection, Magic for Beginners, proves it.”
— Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.net

“Link’s stories are delightfully playful, almost precocious, as she creates palimpsests of secret passages, hidden doors, quiet pulses of deeper meaning…. Link is fast becoming a major talent.”
— Boston Globe

“Fresh and unaffected, yet honed to the essential.”
— Salon

“Advanced alchemy.”
The Believer

“Sinister and sublime.”
— Boston Phoenix

“Exuberantly eccentric.”
— Time Out New York

“Link’s powerful prose places this collection into a class of its own.”
— Boldtype

“Spellbinding.”
— Time Out Chicago

“Kelly Link writes from way out in left field.”
— Charlotte Observer

“A complete delight.”
— Rich Horton, Locus

“These tales are every bit as remarkable as those in her first collection.”
— Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

* “Not only does Link find fresh perspectives from which to explore familiar premises, she also forges ingenious connections between disparate images and narrative approaches to suggest a convincing alternate logic that shapes the worlds of her highly original fantasies.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Cult-favorite fabulist and Shirley Jackson-esque master of the short story, returns with an eagerly-awaited new collection of thoughtfully strange tales that sprinkle the mundane with pixie dust, a dash of old-fashioned tragedy and a bit of gallows humor.”
— The Ruminator Review

“Truly magical, with masterfully crafted stories that are as dark as they are delightful….Sometimes hilarious, sometimes disconcerting, Link’s stories demonstrate her wicked sense of humor and genius wit.”
— Bookpage

“KELLY LINK has an uncanny knack for casting spells over her readers, for luring them into the dark places — the attic, the underworld, a realm beneath a hill. Her first collection of short stories, Stranger Things Happen, was published by Small Beer Press, a tiny independent publisher in Northampton founded by Link and Gavin J. Grant that, according to its Web site, is “committed to publishing short story collections and novels by authors we feel are slipping through the cracks.” These stories bend and transcend genre as Link stirs together myth, mystery, horror, and fantasy. Her second collection, Magic for Beginners (Small Beer Press, 272 pages, $24), is due out in July and promises the same mix of the sinister and the surreal. But the stories — more suggestive than they are descriptive — shouldn’t be pigeonholed as only for sci-fi and fantasy fans. Because for all Link’s use of fairy tale and phantasm, she roots her stories in the life that we know. The narrator in “The Faery Handbag,” for example, tells the story of her grandmother’s magic bag — a bag so black it feels like “when you stretch out your hand at night, to turn on a light, but all you feel is darkness” — which if opened correctly leads to a secret realm, and if opened incorrectly leads to a howling, hairless Cerberus-like dog. The story begins in the Garment District, in Kendall Square; there’s a sly reference to the Star Wars prequels; and, beyond the handbag, it’s a story of young lost love. Fairy tales and myths may be timeless, but these stories are of this moment.”
–Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Phoenix

“Link is the purest, most distinctive surrealist in America.”
— Booklist

“These nine stories are the kinds of stories for which literary phrases like “surrealism” and “magical realism” were invented, and I guess they’ll do, although they seem pretty stale and pale in the face of Link’s boundlessly creative prose. Let’s just say that nobody mixes the fantastical and the ordinary together quite like Link does, spinning tales that are both funny and disturbing, straightforward and elliptical, unreal and real.”
— The Capital Times

“One of the most fascinating writers practicing the craft today.”
— The Simon

“Wishful thinking on the brink of disaster.”
— Village Voice

“Magical realism meets horror meets postmodern absurdism. Very fresh and funny.”
— Michael Knight, Knoxville Metro Pulse Summer Reading Guide

“A bizarre and enchanting read, worth reading and re-reading.”
— Daily Nebraskan

“A wonderful rattlebag of fantastic tales from far beyond the concrete sidewalks and convenience stores we know. Like her first collection, Magic for Beginners uses humor as the main prism through which the author views her mostly hapless or at least happy-go-lucky characters. The strange attraction of Link’s fiction is that even when you’re not really sure what’s going on you’re having way too much fun reading to stop and rereading these tall tales is a positive pleasure.”
— Rich Rennicks Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC

The stories in Magic for Beginners make their own strange, perfectly formed sense. Link creates these familiar, spooky, sometimes funny worlds with cats parented by witches, or a cheerleader hanging out with the devil, or creepifying rabbits. I’m always a little tense reading these stories. In the very best way, I never know what is coming next. If she only parcelled out one elegant sentence at a time I would beg for each one.”
— Pam Harcourt, Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

“I am in love with Kelly Link’s new collection of stories, Magic For Beginners, just out in hardcover. This book is a fairly complete list of my favorite things. She sort of summarized it best when she signed it for me: “Love, Magic, Zombies!” It’s fantastical, whimsical, and dead serious and it makes me interested in short stories again.”
— Alexander Chee, author Edinburgh, in Books To Watch Out For

Tiger Heron

UK reviews

“This is one of the most extraordinary and wonderful books of the year.”
Time Out London, Mar. 27, 07

“Possibly grimmer than Grimm.”
The Herald, Feb 2, 07

“Beautifully written short stories; eccentric and dark, the collection is an Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups.”
Dazed and Confused

“Link’s writing is bold, tender, mischievous and unsettling.”
Cork Evening Echo, Feb 17, 07

“These are weird and wacky tales, each with their own barmy internal logic which draws you in, flips you on your head and leaves you dizzy with disbelief…. Link’s extraordinary use of language is as haunting as the tales themselves. She blends fantasy and reality into an irresistible melange that, at its best, becomes a powerful metaphor for the unreliability of perception.”
—Jane Wessel, Venue (****)

“Link’s magic is to show the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice versa: no mean feat.”
RTE Guide (*****)

“Just when you think you’ve read all the best magic and fantasy stories, along comes Link and the dull world is enchanted all over again. Her imagination floats free into her very own twilight zone.”
Saga, Mar 07

“Whether she’s writing about a suburban family haunted by rabbits or a grandmother who keeps a world hidden in her handbag, Link’s stories are witty, moving and sometimes scary.”
The Gloss Magazine, Feb 07

“A collection of nine stories from a talent to watch, this is a lyrical fantasy where the ordinary is made extraordinary.”
The Bookseller, Oct 06

Advance Praise

“Kelly Link owns the most darkly playful voice in American fiction since Donald Barthelme. She is pushing the American short story into places that it hasn’t yet been pushed, while somehow managing to maintain a powerful connection to traditional forms and storytelling values.”
— Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

“The dream-logic of Magic for Beginners is intoxicating. These stories will come alive, put on zoot suits, and wrestle you to the ground. They want you and you will be theirs.”
— Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

“A wonderful rattlebag of fantastic tales from far beyond the concrete sidewalks and convenience stores we know. Like her first collection, Magic for Beginners uses humor as the main prism through which the author views her mostly hapless or at least happy-go-lucky characters. The strange attraction of Link’s fiction is that even when you’re not really sure what’s going on you’re having way too much fun reading to stop and rereading these tall tales is a positive pleasure.”
— Rich Rennicks Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC

“The stories in Magic for Beginners make their own strange, perfectly formed sense. Link creates these familiar, spooky, sometimes funny worlds with cats parented by witches, or a cheerleader hanging out with the devil, or creepifying rabbits. I’m always a little tense reading these stories. In the very best way, I never know what is coming next. If she only parcelled out one elegant sentence at a time I would beg for each one.”
— Pam Harcourt, Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

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