Get in Trouble--Stories by Kelly Link

a Michael Schutz blog

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A new friend of mine recommended this book during a conversation about the best new(ish) fiction. It really is a good idea for me to take a break from horror novels of the 70s and 90s and take a peek at what authors write these days. Okay, I’m not that bad, but I often do feel like I’m playing catch-up. I expected good things from Get in Trouble. I did not expect to read life-changing short stories.

Kelly Link writes strong, intelligent prose. That alone is pure pleasure to read. But her narrative style is something sparse and new, and she creates her stories with astounding confidence. Instead of straight-forward description, dialog, and plot, Link’s stories feature a sort of abstract approach. Rarely do we have an orienting opening paragraph or two. These tales begin in medias res, wasting no time with exposition about the weather, the protagonist’s hair and eye color, and the droll (or, actually, the startling inventive) landscapes. We are immediately rocked back on our heels and then must race to catch up. It’s a breathless, pulse-pounding initiation into her every world.

I liked some of the stories better than others. “I Can See Right Through You” left me a little confused and unsatisfied. “Valley of the Girls” and “Origin Story” left me a lot confused and unsatisfied. But even these were written with an admirably fresh prose and forethought.

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The stories that did work for me worked like nothing I’ve read since those in The October Country and Skeleton Crew. “The Summer People” started off the whole book with its slow Southern drawl of cosmic horror.  “The Lesson” is the finest modern literary short story I’ve read. Link’s trademark style brings a pleasantly odd perspective to the relationship between these two men, their stresses surrounding a coming baby, and a subtle but steady bad feeling about the groom and groomsmen. “Two Houses” give us a science fiction story, and though that one was included in a Ray Bradbury tribute anthology, I see the master’s influence most in “The New Boyfriend.” And that tale affected me the most. It’s so unique, so new, and perfect that it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life.

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Based on this collection, I consider Kelly Link the modern master of magic realism. Nobody writes like her. Nobody has the off-the-wall imagination that she has. Her voice is a force that resonates with me as a reader and as a writer. I cannot wait to read her entire bibliography.

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California.