Category Archives: StoryCollection

At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson

beesAt the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson

Small Beer Press, Easthampton, MA 2012

From my TBR pile.  Kij Johnson has won the Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Nebula awards.  This is an odd and moving collection by one of my favorite authors and goes onto my Best of 2013 list.

It is unusual to come across a collection of stories that is  emotionally deep and, at the same time, chilling and even horrific.  I have loved Johnson’s writing since I read The Fox Woman years ago and ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.  Not keeping up with fantasy publications,  none of these were familiar to me.  I find them difficult to describe.  Most feature animals, there are aliens and most feature humans in all their strange and convoluted glory.

All moments are this moment.  Past and future jumble together: Jingu cannot say which is which.  And because everything — sorrow and anger and love and grief — is equally immediate, she finds herself strangely distanced from her own life.  It is as though she listens to a storyteller recite a tale she has heard too many times, the tale of the empress Jingu.  From The Empress Jingu Fishes, page 109.

Built with elements of folk and fairy tales, mythology and science fiction, the stories bend and twist out of those forms and enter what I consider the realm of slipstream.  Some are are made of memory and there are often stories within stories.   Johnson travels to unfamiliar places, even for fantasy.   I find myself wanting to follow her, as long as I am sure I know the way back.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, DarkFantasy, Fantasy, Once Upon A Time VII, StoryCollection

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kresskress,jpg

Small Beer Press, Easthampton, MA, 2012

From my TBR pile.

This is a collection of stories previously published in magazines like Asimov’s and Fantasy.  The opening story,” The Erdmann Nexus,” won the Hugo Award and the title story,  “Fountain of Age”, won the Nebula.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything by Nancy Kress before and I am now jumping at the chance to read her novels.  This collection runs the gamut from illegal genetic modification to alien intervention brilliantly.  It is worth the price of admission for “Laws of Survival” alone.  Read it.

I just found out one of my all time favorite magical realism tinged  novels, Winter’s Tale by Mark Halprin, is being made into a movie starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (for all you Downton Abbey fans).  More here.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, 2013 Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, Books, SciFi, StoryCollection

From Ink Lake: Canadian Stories edited by Michael Ondaatje

inklakeFrom Ink Lake: Canadian Stories

edited by Michael Ondaatji

Vintage Canada, Toronto, 1995

From my book shelves.  I suppose this is a bit of a cheat for the Canadian Book Challenge, as I haven’t read every story yet, but I keep this on my night stand and often pick it up between novels.  It is one I will keep forever.

This collection, which I have had for some time, is how I first became interested in reading Canadian authors.  I had read Ondaatji and Atwood, of course, but I don’t think I realized they came from the North.   This book introduced me to Alice Munro through Miles City, Montana, Alister Macleod through As Birds Bring Forth The Sun  and Carol Shields  through Scenes. There are so many other authors I can’t list them all.  As an introduction to Canadian literature it is worth searching for this one.

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Filed under Canadian, CanadianBookChallenge6, StoryCollection, Thoughts

Play The Monster Blind by Lynn Coady

Play The Monster Blind by Lynn Coady

Vintage Canada, Toronto, 2001

From my TBR pile.

This is a collection of short stories, linked by characters, family histories and location.  It is the first time I have read Lynn Coady, an author and playwright from Nova Scotia who now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Reading these stories felt like walking barefoot over gravel, sharp and painful, wanting to hurry and get into cool grass.  Coady is an insightful writer, exploring the dynamics of family and community in a small town.

Anyone who has lived in a small town, particularly as an adolescent, knows the feeling Coady expresses in her stories.  Gossip, back-biting, bullying, the need to fit in and the need to escape.

…When you think about people gossiping, you think about everyone sitting around and talking and talking until it makes everyone sick, but that’s not really how it works at all.  All it takes is one sentence every couple of days, a passing remark or a joke.  And then that person and all that is wrong with them is riveted inside your skull and if  anyone ever says their name around you it triggers all the remarks and jokes in a flood – that’s what you think of when you think of them.  That’s how it works.  From The Ice-Cream Man, page 36.

And there’s that closed in feeling of not getting anywhere as an adult, of giving in, and giving up.   There are also those people who escape small towns and then find themselves drawn back, for a funeral or a wedding or because life is just too difficult “out there”.

I know, this sound depressing, but Lynn Coady’s abilities bring a sharp humor to these stories and make even the most unlikable character understandable.  Some of the stories focus on girls growing up and women who blame themselves for the state of their families and the state of the world.  This made me angry but I found that while Coady shines a light into some dark corners, she does so with compassion.

Other reviews:

Buried in Print

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Filed under Canadian, Review, StoryCollection

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr

Scribner, New York, 2010

Borrowed from my local library.  Winner of the 2010 Story Prize.

I am not really much of a short story reader.  I might read the latest story published in the New Yorker, or link to a story someone has sent to me, but I much prefer novels.  There are a few exceptions.  This author is one of them.

I discovered Anthony Doerr by accident.  While browsing the shelves at my local library the cover of his first story collection, The Shell Collector, caught my eye. 

I brought it home and was captured by Doerr’s writing, his depth of feeling and the places time and nature take in his work.  I put his newest collection on hold at the library thinking I would get to it right away.  Things kept pushing it aside until I finally carved out the space to read it.  I will not let that happen with his next collection.

From Afterworld:

We return to the places we’re from; we trample faded corners and pencil in new lines.  “You’ve grown so fast,” Robert’s mother tells him at breakfast, at dinner.  “Look at you.”  But she’s wrong, thinks Robert.  You bury your childhood here and there.  It waits for you, all your life, to come back and dig it up.  From page 242.

The stories in this new collection are about memory, how it connects us through time, how it haunts us and changes us.  These stories read like novels, full of care and tenderness.  Somehow Doerr’s stories each hold a universe of  space and time, a sense of distance and the knowledge that life goes on around us whether we are aware of it or not.

From The River Nemunas:

     It’s not a fish.  I know it’s not a fish.  It’s just a big lump of memory at the bottom of the River Nemunas.  I say a prayer Dad taught me about God being in the light and in the water and the rocks, about God’s mercy enduring forever.  I say it quickly to myself, hissing it out through my lips, and pull then crank, pull then crank.  God is in the light, God is in the water, God is in the rocks, and I feel Mishap scrabbling around the boat with his little claws and I can even feel his heart beating in his chest, a bright little fist opening and closing, and I can feel the river pulling past the boat, its tributaries life fingernails dragging through an entire country, all of Lithuania draining into this one artery, five hundred slicing miles of water, all the way to the Baltic, which Grandpa Z says is the coldest sea in Europe, and something occurs to me that will seem obvious to you but that I never thought about before.  A river never stops.  Wherever you are, whatever your doing, forgetting, sleeping, mourning, dying – the rivers still keep running.  From page 182.

I love these stories and highly recommend this collection.

Other reviews:

Reflections from the Hinterland

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Filed under Fiction, Review, StoryCollection

Burning Bright by Ron Rash

Burning Bright by Ron Rash

Ecco, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

I do not often read short stories and am not sure how to review them.  Last year I read Ron Rash’s novel, Serena, and loved it.  When I saw this collection on the new book shelf at the library I had to pick it up and bring it home.

This collection ranges through time from the Civil War era to the present.  Rash writes in pared down language,  clear and crisp as a mountain stream.  The stories are based in the  landscape of Appalachia and filled with the people who are part of that landscape, so much a part that they often can not leave, even if they want to.

Poverty, drugs and violence run through many of these stories, but the characters show a strength that has to do with long history, love of family and love of place.  Some are disturbing, some are lyrically beautiful.  This is wonderful collection.

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Filed under Review, Stories, StoryCollection