Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link

Magic For BeginnersNine short stories of magical realism, stories that shift effortlessly from fairy-tale mode to a much more naturalistic mode to surreal absurdity.

The thing about these stories–the frustrating, beautiful thing–is that they are not merely hard to understand. They resist all efforts to understand them. They hint at the feeling that, oh, if only you were smart enough, if only you spent enough time decoding the symbolism and the turns of phrase, everything would suddenly become bright-clear and revelatory, and then they dismiss that idea–directly or more subtly. These are stories about the ways in which stories satisfy or don’t satisfy, make you comfortable or uncomfortable, and it’s no surprise that the stories themselves are unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. And it’s not even a bad thing.

I don’t know any other writer who evokes so well the way I feel about stories, a mix of absurd devotion and intense suspicion of that devotion. Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps. And they evoke, too, the absurdity and magic and meaningfulness and meaninglessness of contemporary life, in a way that doesn’t feel bleak or depressing–Link makes me feel like both her stories, and the world, are complicated, weird, and incomprehensible, but they aren’t things that need to be understood.

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