Magic for Beginners
Author: Kelly Link
Publisher: Harper Perennial
286 pages • £7.99
Jeremy’s father is a novelist and
recreational shoplifter. He writes about
spiders and murdered poodles, and one of
the problems with being around him is that
he always guesses the end of TV
programmes. Jeremy’s mother was raised
by feral silent movie stars. Well, possibly…
At least, that’s what Jeremy’s father says.
Jeremy’s friend Elizabeth sits on the roof
with Jeremy, watching stars and trying to
spot the constellations. Jeremy can’t
remember if he invited her or she invited
him, or even if he’s meant to be kissing her,
or if they’re just friends.
Life’s complicated like that.
Although it’s less complicated than the
plotline for Fox, a pirate post-Buffy series
that shows up randomly on those cable
channels usually found full of static and
fuzz. Watching episodes of Fox is what
draws Jeremy and his friends together. And
Fox is serious, particularly now Prince Wing
has been turned into a porcelain teapot by
magicians, smashed to pieces and buried
inside a cigar box in the Angela Carter
Magic For Beginners is a collection of
short stories, and you’ll either love it or
really, really hate it. Dogs are turned into
handbags. A horror fan breaks into a
writer’s house and leaves a novel about the
Titanic, written from the iceberg’s point of
view. People win Scrabble with the names
of countries that might once have existed.
And while it’s okay for a girl to fool around
with some guy, she really shouldn’t spend
the night, because a hundred years might
have passed when morning comes.
This is fiction as… what? Cross-cultural
lash-up? Insane zombie video mix? If so,
why is it so coherent when it meshes pop TV,
urban American life and European fairytales?
God knows, but you need nerves of steel to
write this well. A frighteningly original
collection of stories from a frighteningly
Jon Courtenay Grimwood