Kelly Link | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kelly Link's short stories are the wickedest gifts I've gotten so far from the genre-benders--writers who don't cleave to pop or litfic conventions, read in a variety of genres, and aren't content to borrow from any one formula. Link's first collection, Stranger Things Happen (2001), feeds on horror, mystery, romance, comics, travel writing, fantasy, and sci-fi. While she dwells on details both realistic and fantastic with salacious precision, her fortes are myth and fairy tale. More than dressed-up reworkings of old fables, Link's stories--full of broken families and youthful fornicators--at first seem to stride boldly away from timeworn roads. But as each piece reveals its internal logic, you realize she's just hacking a new path through the same old dark forest and--too late!--you're already awake and crying in astonishment, trapped in a thicket of ancient fears, obsessions, and beauty. A limber, sexy sister to Poe, Link's not married to gloom--she will on occasion point to the light--but she's careful to warn against facile happily-evers. In "Travels With the Snow Queen," for example, Link's barefoot heroine journeys in search of the boy who left her, pulling shards of a shattered looking glass--her map--from her soles along the way. "Fairy tales aren't easy on the feet," she says. But, she argues, to travel in comfort, with goose-drawn sleigh and pea-free mattress, is penny-wise but in the end pound-foolish when it comes to pain. Link and Karen Joy Fowler, author of Sister Noon, read at 6:45 PM Tuesday, May 27, at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston, 847-866-0300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Maria Daniels.

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