Kelly Link: “Summer People”

Context: The story is about the budding friendship between two high school girls, Fran and Ophelia. Ophelia drives a Lexus, is very tender-hearted, and has been tending Fran through a bad case of the flu, since Fran’s Dad took off for a couple of weeks to attend a religious revival meeting he learned about on the internet. Before Ophelia came along, Fran was self-medicating with Nyquil liqui-gel, four a night.

“The door you slipped my envelope under,” she said, finally, “you oughtn’t ever go in there.”

Ophelia looked interested. “Like Bluebeard,” she said.

Fran said, “It’s how they come and go. Even they don’t open that door very often, I guess.” She’d peeped through the keyhole once and seen a bloody river. She bet if you passed through that door, you weren’t likely to return.

“Can I ask you another stupid question?” Ophelia said. “Where are they right now?”

“They’re here,” Fran said.

Fran suddenly tells Ophelia she has to go (Oh NOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Paris in TROPIC OF CANCER, by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer could also be read as a novel of place (the first half of it, anyway, LOL)

Self loves the pungency of the voice.

Here is the protagonist, p. 38:

Long queues of people with vegetables under their arms, turning in here and there with crisp, sparkling appetites. Nothing but food, food, food. Makes one delirious.

Pass the Square de Furstenberg. Looks different now, at high noon. The other night when I passed by it was deserted, bleak, spectral. In the middle of the square four black trees that have not yet begun to blossom. Intellectual trees, nourished by the paving stones. Like T. S. Eliot’s verse.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Thoughts, the Hybrid Memoir: TROPIC OF CANCER, by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer is one of the finest examples self knows of the hybrid fiction/memoir.

It was published in Paris in 1934. Labeled obscene by American standards, it was banned for the next 27 years (You can read the first half safely; it’s the second half that set the American censors off)

The version self is reading now is the one by Grove Press.

  • I have made a silent compact with myself not to change a line of what I write. I am not interested in perfecting my thoughts, nor my actions. Beside the perfection of Turgenev I put the perfection of Dostoevski. (Is there anything more perfect than The Eternal Husband?) Here, then, in one and the same medium, we have two kinds of perfection. But in Van Gogh’s letters there is perfection beyond any of these. It is the triumph of the individual over art.

Tropic of Cancer, p. 11

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why Does Self Love This? Really Love This?

When you do for other people (Fran’s daddy said once upon a time when he was drunk, before he got religion) things that they could do for themselves, but they pay you to do it instead, you both will get used to it.

Sometimes they don’t even pay you, and that’s charity. At first, charity isn’t comfortable, but it gets so it is. After some while, maybe you start to feel wrong when you ain’t doing for them, just one more thing, and always one more thing after that.

— Kelly Link’s short story “Summer People” (from Get In Trouble: Stories)

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”


The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of The Day: Kelly Link’s Story “The Summer People” (Which Link Read at the Cork International Short Story Festival)

Self’s idol! Ever since self read her story “Stone Animals” in Best American Short Stories (2005?)

When self found out that Kelly Link was reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival, she became immensely excited and determined. So off she went to the Triskel Art Centre, and did she ever make the right choice or what? Never mind that it was cold, that she’d just had a humongous dinner, and she just wanted to veg out in her room. No, self! Get your shit together!

Even though self swore, swore she would not buy a single book (Her arms are so sore from lifting: she’s taken at least 4 trains in eight days), she did buy Kelly’s just-published Get In Trouble: Stories (blurbed by none other than Sarah Waters, who calls it, quote unquote, A brilliant, giddying read.). Kelly wrote this on self’s copy:

For Marianne: Here are some terrible ideas. Love, K D Link.


When, after the reading, self went up with the book of Kelly’s short stories encased within her trembling hands (The use of hyperbole would not be completely unwarranted in this situation), Kelly was speaking to a very enthusiastic Irish lad. Self waited patiently.

Then, before signing self’s book, Kelly asked for self’s name.

Self demurred, saying, Oh you’ve never heard of me.


Finally, Kelly managed to worm it out of self. Whereupon Kelly said, with great sincerity, “I think I’ve heard of you.”

In response to which self said, “No you’ve never heard of me. I’m so small press, I’m not even.”


Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from “The Summer People,” the first story in Kelly Link’s collection:

  • Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran. In consequence of this, she’d laid out of school for three days in a row. The previous night, she’d taken four NyQuil caplets and gone to sleep on the couch while a man on the TV threw knives.

Unf. Self just loves the unexpectedness of the last sentence.

Plan for tonight: meeting up with playwright Barbara Guilfoyle. Going to hear Jaime Nanci Barron sing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Joseph O’Connor’s STAR OF THE SEA, Prologue

We had chopped across a filthy-tempered Irish Sea and docked at Kingstown to take on provisions; then crept down the jagged south-east coast, making for Queenstown in the county of Cork (or ‘Cobh’ as it is known in the Gaelic language). Seeing Wicklow glide past, or Wexford or Waterford, seemed to many a bitter taunt, a poultice being ripped from a putrefying wound. A consumptive blacksmith from the town of Bunclody jumped the upperdeck rail near Forlorn Point and was last seen swimming weakly towards the shore, every last shred of his will employed to bring him back to the place where his death was certain.

Star of the Sea, by Joseph O’Connor: Prologue, page xvi

Photo Credit: Andrew de Jesus

Photo Credit: Andrew de Jesus

It’s a novel of the potato famine and the Irish immigration to America. And self saw the play of it last night in Galway.

Shattering. The woman sitting next to self couldn’t speak afterwards, she was crying so much.

Stay tuned.

The Bane Chronicles: “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale”

Self is so very into The Infernal Devices (as dear blog readers well know, from all her posts through the summer, leading up to her trip to London).

There are three books in The Infernal Devices trilogy, and self tore through all three while she was in Banff (Thanks much, Niece Karina!).

When she was in Banff, she saw stacks of the just publishedy The Bane Chronicles in the bookstores. The book is a collection of short stories about some of the characters in this universe, and there are three authors. Which means, not every story is by Cassandra Clare (Jury’s still out on this; Clare is a really good writer. But the stories she’s read are somewhat uneven)

Nevertheless, self read two of the stories in between trips, when she dropped by Kepler’s in Menlo Park. In Dublin, she hung out in a bookstore for a few hours and read more of the stories (She was trying hard not to add to her luggage, which is so ridiculously crammed with books, all the time)

But now, the friend she is staying with has a teen-ager who happens to own a copy of The Bane Chronicles. And now she can quote because she has the actual book in front of her!

Self must confess, she never bothered to read all the stories in the collection, just the ones that concern her favorite Shadowhunter family: the Herondales!

Which brings us to the first paragraph of the story “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale,” which is co-authored by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. And here’s the opening:

London, 1857

Ever since the unfortunate events of the French Revolution, Magnus had nursed a slight prejudice against vampires. The undead were always killing one’s servants and endangering one pet’s monkey. The vampire clan in Paris was still sending Magnus rude messages about their small misunderstanding. Vampires bore a grudge longer than any technically living creatures, and whenever they were in a bad temper, they expressed themselves through murder. Magnus generally washed his companions to be somewhat less — no pun intended — bloodthirsty.


Edmund is the father of her all-time favorite character in The Infernal Devices: of course, that’s Will Herondale. Do you even need to ask.

Self was in London in June when Cassandra Clare announced that it was the anniversary of Will Herondale’s passing and it was almost too much, the torrent of feelz she unleashed with that announcement. (Self wanted to ask Ms. Clare why it is necessary to remind readers that Will Herondale is dead, dead, deader than a doorpost. Aaaargh!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Monochromatic 3: Costume Designer’s Sketch, Book Cover, a Weathervane in Cambridge, UK

Loved the delicacy of this page, depicting an iconic character:

Katniss, page from Costume Designer's Sketch Book for The Hunger Games

Katniss, page from Costume Designer’s Sketch Book for The Hunger Games


Self purchased Lucifer Princeps at the Atlantis Bookstore in London’s Museum Way. The bookstore specializes in all manner of things related to the occult. Since self is writing a novel about an 18th century Spanish priest who is sent to the Philippines specifically to battle demons, she thought the book might come in handy.

Lucifer Princeps: Book Detail

Lucifer Princeps: Book Detail


Self took the picture below while she was on a Jack-the-Ripper tour of Whitechapel and environs!

Cricket Player Weathervane, on top of a building on Whitechapel Road, near E. Aldgate, London

Cricket Player Weathervane, on top of a building in Cambridge, UK (Revised the location — I originally posted as a building in Whitechapel, London. Good thing I double-checked)

Other Monochromatic Takes:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WSJ on Fan Films: Ready for the Next Parallel Universe

It’s no secret to self’s dear blog readers that she loves fan fiction.

Loves it.

When she finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy, she was so disappointed that there would be no more.

Since self is a very stubborn soul, she went roaming the World Wide Web and stumbled on

That was two years ago. She’s been committed to Everlark (Katniss Everdeen + Peeta Mellark pairings) fan fiction ever since.

She recently went ga-ga over another trilogy, Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices. After finishing the last book of the series, Clockwork Princess, she scoured the fan fiction universe for Wessa (Will Herondale + Tessa Gray pairings).

Much to her dismay, there was hardly anything. (There were a lot of Jem Carstaris/Will Herondale pairings, though. BWAH HA HA!)

Then, she finished yet another trilogy, The 100. Her favorite character was Glass, who wasn’t even in the CW television adaptation, boo. Again self went scouring the fan fiction universe: there was nothing, zip, nada on Glass.

Tragic, so tragic!

A week ago, self bought a copy of The Wall Street Journal. There’s an article by Will Friedwald which is about Fan Films.

Fan Films are, Mr. Friedwald writes, “independently produced movies using familiar characters from iconic science-fiction and superhero franchises.”

“In the digital era,” Mr. Friedwald writes, “fan films have grown to the point where the best of them are not only incredibly sophisticated, often employing professional talent, but worthy of competing with the official product.” Many of the Fan Films, Mr. Friedwald continues, are better than epic studio disasters like Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds starrer, 2011).

“There’s only one rule governing so-called fan films: They’re not allowed to make a profit.”

And that applies also in the fan fiction universe.

There are authors of Everlark fan fiction who have so completely channeled Jane Austen that they can produce Everlark that sounds exactly like Pride and Prejudice (Self knows because she is a teacher and she has taught Pride and Prejudice)

There is something so pure about the field of fan fiction. There’s one story she likes, Katniss Everdeen Demonhunter, which is set in Hoboken, NJ. You can actually read KED just to find out what modern Hoboken is like, self kids you not. And if you ask the author for Hoboken restaurant recommendations, she will come right back at you. That’s how self discovered that Hoboken, NJ is a really cool place.

Another of her favorites, Synth, is better than I, Robot. Seriously. It features a cyborg named KTNS-12, a scientist named Beetee, and a Junior Scientist named Peeta (And Junior Scientist Peeta is simply adorbs, clucking like a mother hen over KTNS-12). Perhaps the author of Synth is simply a bored high school student who’d rather write her imaginary universe than prepare for her biology final. If she is, then self is here to tell her that she can always write, if all else fails.

(Self just remembered one more Everlark fan fiction: Katniss is a fan fiction writer. The title of Katniss’s story was something like District 12 or The Hunger Games or something self-referential along those lines. Peeta is her beta. They have such good chemistry, they are so — symbiotic. Peeta’s beta-ing makes Katniss’s fan fiction so much better, so much more appealing to readers. So of course one day they arrange to meet. And, well, you know, Everlark happens: WOOT HOOT!)

Friedwald goes on to examine two areas where the fan film universe is particularly rich: the Star Trek universe, and the Batman universe. And he tosses off film titles like Batgirl: Spoiled and Batman: Death Wish.

Star Trek, Friedwald maintains, is “the galactic epicenter of fan fiction and films.” It’s a universe dreamt up by geeks for other geeks. It’s why the characters of Big Bang Theory are the way they are, and why J. J. Abrams and Josh Whedon have such huge followings. No one gets rich doing this, and so it is a pure realm, where people like self can gambol to their heart’s delight.

Stay tuned.

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