stranger things happen by Kelly Link
2001 Year’s Best Lists:
Salon The Village Voice San Francisco Chronicle
Fantastic Metropolis: Cory Doctorow, Jeffrey Ford, L.Timmel Duchamp, Luis Rodrigues
Locus Best Book of 2001 | Locus Recommended Reading List: John Clute, Gardner Dozois, Charles N. Brown, Faren Miller
Also, noted in: Publishers Weekly
Salon Book of the Year | “Louise’s Ghost” — Nebula Award | “The Specialist’s Hat” — World Fantasy Award | “Travels with the Snow Queen” — Tiptree Award | World Fantasy Award Nominee | Firecracker Alternative Book Award Nominee
“my favorite fantasy writer, Miss Kelly Link”
— Alan Cheuse, NPR, All Things Considered, June 2003
China Mieville’s list of books to read
Philadelphia City Paper, Sept. 26, 2002
New York Magazine, February 11, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday November 18, 2001
New York Times Book Review, Sunday November 11, 2001
Science Fiction Weekly
A review in Hebrew — any translations?
Science Fiction Chronicle
one in Finnish!
Eclectica Review, 7/05
[Link’s] stories go in places you never thought of, never imagined. Her talent is clear and obvious but her stories are often mysterious and even frightening…. [Stranger Things Happen] is a collection that defies genre assignment and stereotyping, that insists instead that it simply be read and enjoyed.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Stranger Things Happen (Small Beer Press, $16) by Kelly Link is a delightful collection of short stories set in a familiar-seeming world.These stories have a dreamy quality, and like traditional fairy tales, Link’s often end with a Grimm little twist.
“Shoe and Marriage” borrows more than a bit from the story of Cinderella, and “Travels With the Snow Queen” and “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” play on fairy-tale titles and content. There is also a recurring character, the Girl Detective, who is a lot like a twentysomething Nancy Drew.
Link’s stories include lots of fairy-tale staples like ghosts, stepmothers and talking ravens. Still, her characters’ fears more often involve parents, careers, relationships and being left than things that make noises in the night.
We are still afraid of poisoned needles, strangers who offer candy to children, and what a mirror might say when we look into it.
But the things that haunt Link’s characters are more subtle; they are the kinds of things that really do keep people awake at night and leave them hungry for a comforting word.
And no matter how odd the events in her stories may seem, as this book’s title says, stranger things happen.
The Miami Herald, May 25, 2002
Sinister. Dreamy. Supernatural. Link’s stories dazzle even as they unsettle. It’s hard to imagine anything stranger than a multi-legged beauty contestant, a noseless, nimble-fingered father with a collection of metal and wood prosthetics or a deceased man mailing letters to his widow from a netherworld bordered by a nappy ocean with teeth. And that’s for starters. The bizarre atmospherics within these stories are driven as much by what is left unexplained, as in The Specialist’s Hat, where two identical 10-year-olds move to a dark mausoleum of a house with their father after their mother’s death. The first sentence spotlights the Samantha twin while she speculates that ”when you’re Dead, you don’t have to brush your teeth.” The Claire twin chimes in with ”when you’re Dead, you live in a box, and it’s always dark, but you’re not ever afraid.” In this fashion, the twins’ fates are foreshadowed but never quite delineated, as their transformation, of sorts, takes place off the page. Link blends myths, ghosts and alien landscapes with a healthy ladle of modern life for stories that at first confound but eventually order themselves into a titillating weirdness.
Link’s stories defy explanation, or at least, brief summary, instead working on the plane between dream and cognitive dissonance. They are true to themselves: witty, beautiful, funny, and startling.
[H]er writing belongs in the same camp as Jonathan Carroll’s: spooky, indeterminate, a kind of exemplar of literary Heisenbergism. The more you push on any one dimension of her eerie, funny tales, seeking to know the unknowables she deftly sketches, the less you know about other slippery aspects of the text. Link is a fantasist in the grand tradition of Carol Emshwiller, John Crowley, and Robert Coover, blurring the lines between dreams, myths, and reality in exciting new ways. All this talent is on display in Stranger Things Happen, an astonishingly good collection — which gathers her World Fantasy Award winner “The Specialist’s Hat,” plus two stories new to the world, as well as eight others — into an assemblage of awesome proportions. From its campy retro Nancy Drew-style cover to its closing credits, this is a postmodern fairy-tale landmark.
Link offers strange and tantalizing stories — contemporary fiction with a fairy-tale ambience — that explore the relationship between loss and death and the many ways we try to cope with both. She boldly weaves myth and fairy tale into contemporary life, drawing inspiration from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, from the fairy tale of Cinderella, from the writings of C. S. Lewis, and from the true story of the Donner party’s descent into cannibalism. Meet Humphrey, one of Zeus’ many illegitimate sons, and June, his girlfriend, who decides to travel to Hades to bring Humphrey back. Learn the rules of being dead, and find out what really happened between Kay and the Snow Queen. Ask yourself what would have happened to the prince if he had never found the girl whose foot fit the glass slipper. Link uses the nonsensical to illuminate truth, blurring the distinctions between the mundane and the fantastic to tease out the underlying meanings of modern life.
The 11 fantasies in this first collection from rising star Link are so quirky and exuberantly imagined that one is easily distracted from their surprisingly serious underpinnings of private pain and emotional estrangement. In “Water Off a Black Dog’s Back,” a naïve young man who has never known personal loss finds that the only way he can curry favor with his lover’s physically afflicted family is to suffer a bizarre amputation. The protagonist in “Travels with the Snow Queen” reconsiders her fairy-tale romance when she deconstructs the clichés of traditional fairy tales and realizes that their heroines inevitably sacrifice and suffer much more than their heroes do. Link favors impersonal and potentially off-putting postmodern narrative approaches, but draws the readers to the emotional core of her stories through vulnerable but brave characters who cope gamely with all the strangeness the world can throw their way, In the books’s most effective tale, “Vanishing Act,” a young girl’s efforts to magically reunite herself with her distant family by withdrawing from the world around her poignantly calls attention to the spiritual vacancies and absence of affection in the family she stays with. “The Specialist’s Hat” features twin sisters whose morbid obsessions seems due as much to their father’s parental neglect as their mother’s death. Although a few of the selections seem little more than awkward exercises on the absurd, the best shed a warm, weird light on their worlds, illuminating fresh perspectives and fantastic possibilities.
Eleven stories showcase a dexterous use of language and a startling, if frequently elusive, imagination as ghosts, aliens, and the living dead invade the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Newcomer Link references fairy tales, mythology, and bits of our common contemporary cultural experience, not to offer commentary but to take off on her own original riffs. So in “Shoe and Marriage” we meet a dictator’s widow, unavoidably reminiscent of Imelda Marcos, living in a museum that displays the shoes she took from her husband’s murder victims. The story, which also describes a bizarre beauty pageant, plays verbally with shoe metaphors from Cinderella’s slippers to Dorothy’s ruby reds, but what touches you is not the author’s verbal acrobatics but the widow’s deep sense of sorrow and horror. Like many of the pieces here, “Shoe and Marriage” joins disparate parts that don’t always fit together, but linear connections are not the aim. When she depends too much on pure cleverness, Link ends up sounding derivative and brittle. “Survivor’s Ball, or The Donner Party,” in which two travelers come to an inn where a creepy if lavish shindig is in full swing, reminds you too insistently of Poe. “Flying Lessons,” about a girl’s love for a boy whose desire to fly ends tragically (hint, hint), and “Travels With the Snow Queen,” in which the fairy tale is revamped to read cute, come across as writing-school literary. But at her best, Link produces oddly moving imagery. In “Louise’s Ghost,” two friends named Louise have overlapping affairs. The shared name at first seems like another joke, but the tale gradually digs deep into the emotionally charged waters of loss and redemption. Stylistic pyrotechnics light up a bizarre but emotionally truthful landscape. Link’s a writer to watch.
Kelly Link’s collection of stories, Stranger Things Happen, really scores.
— Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine
“Stranger Things Happen is a tremendously appealing book, and lovers of short fiction should fall over themselves getting out the door to find a copy.”
— Washington Post Book World
“quirky and exuberantly imagined….the best shed a warm, weird light on their worlds,
illuminating fresh perspectives and fantastic possibilities.”
— Publisher’s Weekly
“Stylistic pyrotechnics light up a bizarre but emotionally truthful landscape. Link’s a writer to watch.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“It is the tradition of the dust-jacket “blurb” to exaggerate the excellences of a book in hopes of enticing readers between its covers. But I do not follow that custom when I say that Stranger Things Happen is one of the very best books I have ever read. These stories will amaze, provoke, and intrigue. Best of all, they will delight. Kelly Link is terrific!“This is not blurbese. It is the living truth.”
— Fred Chappell, author of Family Gathering
“Finally, Kelly Link’s wonderful stories have been collected. My only complaint is the brevity of her oeuvre to date; as an avid reader of her work , I want her to continue to create more gems for me to read. I predict that “The Specialist’s Hat,” winner of the World Fantasy Award, will become part of the canon of classic supernatural tales.”
— Ellen Datlow, fiction editor, Scifiction.com
“I’ve been impatiently awaiting a collection of Kelly Link’s stories. Now that it’s here, it will sit in my library on that very short shelf of books I read again and again. For those who think Fantasy tired, Stranger Things Happen is a wake-up call.”
— Jeffrey Ford, author of The Beyond
“A set of stories that are by turns dazzling, funny, scary, and sexy, but only when they’re not all of these at once. Kelly Link has strangeness, charm and spin to spare. Writers better than this don’t happen.”
— Karen Joy Fowler, author of Sister Noon
“Kelly Link is probably the best short story writer currently out there, in any genre or none. She puts one word after another and makes real magic with them-funny, moving, tender, brave and dangerous. She is unique, and should be declared a national treasure, and possibly surrounded at all times by a cordon of armed marines.”
— Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
“Link’s writing is gorgeous, mischievous, sexy and unsettling. Unexpected images burst on your brain like soap bubbles on a dog’s tongue. I’ve been trying to imitate her since I first read one of her stories. It’s impossible. Instead I find myself curling up with a satisfied sigh and enjoying once more.”
— Nalo Hopkinson, author of Midnight Robber
“Kelly Link is the exact best and strangest and funniest short story writer on earth that you have never heard of at the exact moment you are reading these words and making them slightly inexact. Now pay for the book.”
— Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
“Kelly Link is a brilliant writer. Her stories seem to come right out of your own dreams, the nice ones and the nightmares both. These stories will burrow right into your subconscious and stay with you forever.”
— Tim Powers, author of Declare
“Of all the books you’ll read this year, this is the one you’ll remember. Kelly Link’s stories are like gorgeous tattoos; they get under your skin and stay forever and change your life. Buy this book, read it, read it again, congratulate yourself, and then start buying Stranger Things Happen for your friends.”
— Sarah Smith, author of A Citizen of the Country
“Kelly Link makes spells, not stories. She is the carrier of an eerie, tender sorcery; each enchantment takes you like a curse, leaving you dizzy, wounded, and elated at once. Her vision is always compassionate, and frequently very funny–but don’t let that fool you. This book, like all real magic, is terribly dangerous. You open it at your peril.”
— Sean Stewart, author of Galveston
“If Kelly Link is not the “future of horror,” a ridiculous phrase, she ought to be. To have a future at all, horror in general, by which I might as well mean fiction in general, requires precisely her freshness, courage, intelligence, and resistance to received forms and values. Kelly Link seems always to speak from a deep, deeply personal, and unexpected standpoint. Story by story, she is creating new worlds, new frameworks for perception, right in front of our eyes. I think she is the most impressive writer of her generation.”
— Peter Straub, author of Magic Terror