by Kelly Link
This is Link’s second collection of short stories. I loved the first one, Stranger Things Happen (now available as a free download) so when I saw she was reading at a local bookstore before the actual publication date of the new book, I knew I had to go. For one thing, I’d be able to hear her read from her stories — I love being read to — and I also figured she’d have copies of her book on hand, so my wait to read them would be shorter.
There is magic, of the “real” and metaphoric kinds in this book. There are also zombies, odd cats, witches, convenience store clerks, mediums, teenagers, a writer of horror stories, rabbits, and a variety of haunted objects. I’m afraid this list will make it sound like Link’s stories aren’t believable, and this would be a lie. They are completely, utterly believable, even when readers are urged not to believe a word. Link gets the distinction between true in the “actually happened” sense and true in the “emotionally resonant” sense.
I also have to say that as a physical object, the book is beautiful. Link is one of the co-founders of Small Beer Press, and as publisher of her own stories she gets to choose a good binding, thick paper, and the artwork of Shelley Jackson for her book. I try to buy mainly paperback books — due to space, heft, and cost considerations — but Magic For Beginners is worth getting in hardcover.
So, if you like good stories, stories that completely absorb your attention, stories that offer many unexpected yet believable moments, go buy this book. Highly recommended.