…because have I got the book for you!
Men loving cannons, zombies puking up pajamas, purses that can hold whole villages, horror writers that moonlight as upholsterers- this collection houses all of those freaks and geeks- and then some.
The novella that gives this collection its title – Magic for Beginners– was the best of the bunch. It was difficult to single out one piece, as they are all delightful mix of suburban longing and creepy crawlies, but this piece reminded me of two of my all-time “is this really happening” favorites: Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music and Nickelodeon’s Pete and Pete.
If you have not read Lizard Music then you need to stop what you are doing right now and go pick it up. A boy, alone for the summer while his family travels, stays up late watching old B-movies. He always falls asleep, but he always wakes up to see a late night talk show where all of the people are lizards. Is it a dream? Is it a movie? Is it real? It’s spooky for a kids book, full of weirdos, and so memorable that I think about it almost every day- 21 years after originally picking it up.
Pete and Pete, on the other hand, I am fairly sure that you have seen. When I was a kid I never knew when it was going to be on, or if I would see an episode that I had not seen before. I never knew if the series had ended, or if I was still waiting for missing pieces. I caught it by luck, and my sister and I would check the TV constantly to see if we could catch a piece of it. Years later I tracked two seasons down on DVD, found other people who had seen it, and BAM! The internet exploded and all of my questions were answered.
The teens in Magic for Beginners are also obsessed with a strange and daring TV show; the characters are never played by the same actors twice, it is always on a different channel at an unannounced time, there is no proof of it existing outside of what they have seen and taped, and the actors have never appeared in anything else. It’s a beautiful enigma that wraps them all together. There’s even a Pete and Pete style mysteriously ringing phone booth in the middle of nowhere!
Kelly Link’s voice rings clear throughout every tale. She sounds like that much cooler girl who rode the bus with you that you were afraid to talk to. This book has been on my radar for years, and I could kick myself for not picking it up sooner.