Friday, October 27, 2006

Dean's List, part 3

Of the three batches of stories I've read, this is the strongest group of stories that's on dean's litcritters reading list. But then again, how can I not like these stories since two out of the four writers here are my favorite?

  • I was sorely impressed with my introduction to Tim Pratt's work Little Gods. The story of a man who loses his wife and finds out that there's a mythology after death is almost perfect, with the right mix of sentiment (without getting maudlin) and magic in the midst of grief. I actually have Pratt's first novel on my to-be-read pile but I aim to get his short story collection because of this.
  • On the other hand, I've always liked Theodora Goss ever since I read an earlier work of hers and reading her Pip and the Fairies just reinforced my good opinion. In this case, I was amazed by the dual implications of Goss' story of a young woman living under the shadow of her dead mother's childrens' fairy tale. The ending left me breathless, one indicator that I really, really liked the story.
  • Kelly Link of course is and will always be one of my favorite writers. However, I do admit that her Travels with the Snow Queen is one of the harder works to get into. Still, one has to admire her excellent use of 2nd-person narrative as well the combination of fairy tales and the practical advice for young women. Likewise, reading the dream-like prose is akin to dancing on a soap bubble.
  • Okay, this is where it gets complicated. Noted literary writer A.S Byatt's A Stone Woman (about a young woman grieving for her dead mother who turns to stone) is perfect as stories go-- technically. However, Byatt's writings had always left me cold based on a collection of her short stories I once read when I was younger. It unfortunately seems that the effect is still the same even though I've gotten older. Who knows, maybe later on?


Dammit. Unfortunately, as a short-story writer meself, examples like the above leave me friggin' envious. But I suppose one will always dream of the unattainable, right?

(One more review to go and I'm back to finishing my story...)


paul said...

just a couple of cents' worth: i'm a byatt fan, although admittedly i prefer her novels to her stories.

i remember reading 'a stone woman' some years back, and although i didn't think of it as her best story, i found it affecting (i thought it was a horror story, loosely speaking), not to mention cool (literally turning to stone! yay!) and (here's my point) funny--there was something about it that struck me as a bit of a gag, which byatt was saying with a straight face. i dunno, but i keep seeing these neat little jokes in byatt's stuff, and this playfulness is one of the things that i love about her work.

but i can sort of see the 'feeling cold' bit--to me the whole bit about icelandic tales felt slightly heavy, kinda like someone trying to convince you you are not being lectured, but doesn't entirely succeed. still i enjoyed this story a lot.

banzai cat said...

Hey paul!

Yeah most of the stories I read in The Nightingale struck me as clinical despite its fairy-tale tone. Which is sad since I like prose like Byatt's (a liking which I'd later translate to the current crop of writers today like Brockmeier and Link).

I do agree that there's a certain horror bit to this story: somewhat akin to Lovecraft or Poe (the unspeakable horror) though one can hardly tell because of the beautiful prose. Very well done indeed.

Still, I just remembered that I still have a copy of her Possession that I haven't read (yes, I'm that delayed) so I can check that out to see whether or not I really dig her.

Thanks for the word up!

paul said...

i had a lot of fun reading 'possession.' (then again, that's me; i nerdily enjoyed those long, long parodies of victorian poetry.) i found it really entertaining, a page-turner the way a really good detective story is. but actually i liked 'the virgin in the garden' (first book of the frederica potter tetralogy) much better, and i've been meaning to read the other novels in the series.

banzai cat said...

Mmmm... have you read Elizabeth Hand's Mortal Love? That one reminds me a bit of Byatt's Possession.

What other books would you recommend of Byatt's? I remember the same person who recommended to me Nightingale also cited Babel Tower...

paul said...

nope, sorry, haven't read any elizabeth hand.

'babel tower' is part three of the frederica series. haven't read it yet, but me girl has, and she likes it a lot. she says there are portions in the book that parodies sade's '120 days of sodom,' so that should be nasty, but intriguing.

the two novellas in 'angels and insects' are pretty good. and i also totally enjoyed the less-well-received 'the biographer's tale,' which is kind of like the cranky twin of 'possession.'

banzai cat said...

Hmmm... that one looks interesting. And it's about a book-lover too...