Kelly Link @ the Harvard Book Store

Summervillain sent me an email yesterday morning that there was a Kelly Link reading at Harvard Book Store at 7pm; he and Trixie couldn’t go, but he figured I was interested. He was correct.

At about 6 I left work, made time for a drink with the kids from work at Kingston Station (the kids were drinking beer, I left after one martini), and made it to the HBS right as the reading started.

I thought I had blogged more about her, but I can only find one passing mention, which is too bad because she’s been pretty much my favorite writer for a couple of years now. So, the Internets can fill you in on her as easily as I can, but I just recommend reading a couple of stories that are freely available online. “The Specialist’s Hat” had me so creeped out the night that I read it that I didn’t want to go downstairs alone and made Terri come with me. I think about “The Hortlak” every time I go into a convenience store late at night. And I have always loved “The Faery Handbag” because it mentions the Garment District in Cambridge near where I used to work.

She read part of one story from her new young adult book Pretty Monsters, and she basically just stopped as soon as it started to get really scarey. For the record, she mentioned that the Brian Johnson mentioned in the story is based on her real cousin, Brian Johnson, who told her to write the story.

Highlights from the Q&A:

  • The story “Magic for Beginners” is indeed inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer which she claims to have been obsessed with for a while. Specifically, it started with ideas that she had for it that couldn’t or wouldn’t be done on TV (diferent actors playing the same characters each episode, no regular airing schedule, etc.)
  • She had a good response to the question about why the new collection of stories is categorized as young adult when none of her others are. I can’t reproduce the answer perfectly, but the many points included that her stuff is always hard to categorize, that she thinks it’s definitely YA and it’s more than just a convenient marketing label, and that it is does not involve looking back on youth with nostalgia but instead has an immediacy and the sense of intense critical importance of everything.
  • She didn’t talk too much about her reasons for publishing this with large publisher (Viking) this time rather than publishing it through the Small Beer Press which she runs with her husband. But she did mention that she got far more creative control over the whole thing than she ever expected including working with the illustrator she wanted and veto power on the cover art. She said it was kind of a nice change to have someone else do everything, and just have to say “yes” or “no”.

No photos: it would have felt weird.

Postscript: I’ve wondered this before in respect to seeing films at the Brattle Theater but what is it about Cambridge audiences that laughter is their only reaction to any critical moment in any performing art? There were just moments in the story where there was certainly some sort of emotional peak or moment of revelation, but where laughter was totally inappropriate. It’s some kind of bizarre intellectual emotional repression that’s endemic to our fair neighboring city.

3 thoughts on “Kelly Link @ the Harvard Book Store”

  1. Some people giggle when they are very tense (I’m one of them; don’t go to the movies with me), and such giggles can be contagious even to people who don’t normally have them.

    If you look at when chimps laugh, other than when they’re tickled, it’s in situations of high social stress. Homo saps aren’t that different.

  2. Coincidentally, just the other day I was browsing the stacks at the used bookstore and I saw Link’s Magic for Beginner’s. I had never heard of her before but the cover caught my eye as it’s based on Leonardo’s “Lady with an Ermine”. It looked too juvenile for my tastes so I dismissed it. The fact that the cover blurb mentioned Muggles didn’t do much to change my mind either. It’s good to hear someone else’s opinion on it. Maybe next time I’ll give it another chance.

    As for the inappropriate laughter, I haven’t noticed that too often watching classic films in Austin but it does occasionally happen. John raises a good point about laughing to relieve tension but I think a lot of people today are so concerned with looking cool that they are unable or unwilling to look past the dated dialogue and acting styles and laugh to avoid having an emotional response to the material – and to let everyone else know that they didn’t. It just depends. Some movies are genuinely laughable and easy to feel superior to but allowances should be made for good films.

  3. Oh, I’m happy you were able to go — thanks for the reportage!

    When Terri and I saw Francine Prose read a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the sorta-inappropriate laughter phenomenon (SILP). It struck me as an audible, “I’m paying attention! I get this!” kind of reaction among fervent fans. I’ve noticed it south of the Chuck, though, so I don’t think it’s endemic to Cambridge.

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