i forgot: i also got Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen over the weekend. (yes, i know...retail therapy. what a bitch. still, it seems to have worked. i'm feeling much more chipper now, thank you very much. i, consumer.)
my introduction to Link was by way of The Faery Handbag, which i'd pulled at random from the interweb. sadly, no, that didn't get me out there hunting for her stuff, and i passed up the other samples of her work available online.
surely, however, i was missing something? so i went ahead and read bits of The Specialist's Hat from some 'Slipstream' Anthology a bookstore had sold me by mistake. (i can't remember the title of the book, but Banzai Cat will know the one. ask him.) better, imho. much. but i'd only read the first bits of it to fill in some dead space in between doing other things, and when i put the book down to continue with those other things, it promptly, er, slipped from my mind and i've never found the urge to get it back.
but i ramble aimless. where was i?
right. Stranger Things Happen.
Story the 1st: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. sigh. i can't help but feel disappointed by this story. certainly, the dead man's letters are simply lovely, and the prose and narrative and all the strange details are all successfully evocative of that same twilight described by John Singer Sargent's painting -- that precarious balance between fresh-lit lanterns and faded evening sunlight, that ethereal yet somehow ambivalent glow to the faces of the innocents, the carnations, lilies, roses, used here to magnificently subtle effect (and affect) to illustrate something like capture, or maybe entanglement in the delicate membrane between life and death.
unfortunately, the intervening omniscient voice, though most likely deliberate, strikes me as a kind of literary failure of nerve, as though Ms Link couldn't find it in herself to trust either her dead man narrator or the reader to get the story right. or, at least, not the way she wants either of them to get it.
i can't help but feel this story could have been so much better without those intervening bits, and was thus mortally wounded by them, the way, say, AI could have been so much better without being Disneyfied by Spielberg.
(ok, it isn't quite the same thing, not a very good analogy at all, but i wanted an excuse to link to this.)
so what Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose suggests to my mind is a writer with obvious talent, more comfortable with the sort of evocative yet minimalist prose that seems favored by high-minded literature these days than most other writers in the so-called genre, but who hasn't yet learned to trust either her self or her audience or both.
no, i wasn't completely happy with Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (this is entirely unoriginal of me, but can't you tell i just love that title?), but there's no way i can deny it's a beautiful piece of work.
an ambiguous start: promising, and lovely, but fatally flawed and, by itself, ultimately disappointing.
Story the 2nd? no, not yet, i think. not here, from work. i'm currently (perhaps wrong-headedly) trying to draw up some vague parallels that seem to be lurking between Water off a Black Dog's Back and James Salter's lovely My Lord You, and while i'd like that to manifest in the next post, i have to admit it might not.