Kelly Link’s stories are not easy to describe. Her latest collection, Get in Trouble, is going into my “weird-but-i-liked-it” category on Goodreads. Probably also the “fantasy” and “sci-fi-ish” categories. I find myself drawn more and more lately to tales that are a little odd and defy easy categorization. These ten stories were strange, dark, and enthralling. There’s a truly chilling tale about a spaceship crew waking up from a long sleep, a story about Ancient Egypt-obsessed teenagers stuck deep within a pyramid, and a touching story of a young woman in love with her old friend, who happens to be an actual superhero. Even though the circumstances of the stories are weird, the emotions of the characters ring true – the jealousies, love, family and sibling relations are all accessible.
I was telling my husband about the last story in the collection, “Light,” and how it blew my mind so much that I felt like I had vertigo after I finished reading it. Me: “So there’s this woman, Lindsey, in Key West, and she was born with two shadows, and one of them grew into her twin brother, Alan, and he runs tourist expeditions into these newly-sprung pocket universes, and Lindsey works in a warehouse where they store these people who are asleep and won’t wake up, and there’s this hurricane coming…”
Husband: “You lost me after you said she was born with two shadows.”
He and I have been having this ongoing discussion lately about fiction. He says he can’t read fiction anymore. He used to read fiction. I remember him telling me that his favorite novel was The Call of the Wild, and how much he liked Steinbeck and Hemingway and Eudora Welty. But somewhere along the way he decided he couldn’t handle modern (as in the last thirty or forty years) fiction.
At first I fought him on it. I thought that he simply wasn’t choosing the “right” books. Perhaps I could pick him something he’d like? And then I remembered a few years ago I got him to read Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End, which I love and have read twice. He said he couldn’t do it because it made him too sad. Recently he checked out two modern literary fiction novels from the library. He started each but quickly abandoned them, telling me that because they were both about “losers” that he was starting to absorb the emotions and feeling too much like a loser himself.
I thought I was the more sensitive, porous person in our relationship, but it turns out that in this regard, he’s the one who takes on more of the sadness in modern fiction. And there’s a lot of sadness in modern fiction, right? I love that my husband reads. Period. I realized that he’s happy reading his baseball books and biographies of historical figures and rock stars. He’s one of the smartest people I know and knows more about baseball than anyone I’ve ever met. He loves amassing facts and knowledge, and he retains an incredible amount of what he reads. He’s the one you want on your Trivial Pursuit team.
I want him to be happy, not depressed by some novel that I think he should read. So I’m going to leave him alone. He and I work so well together because we compliment one another and balance each other out. I’m going to quit thinking I know everything about his reading tastes and let him enjoy his nonfiction. I’ll be out there tripping through the pocket-universes for the both of us.