Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good lord, no!! It's... adorable?

Title: Other Stories and... The Attack of the Giant Baby
Author: Kit Reed
Bookmark: Old train ticket that I found in my coat pocket

This is another treasure that ket dug up at her bookstore. Before anything about what goes on inside the cover, take a look at the cover itself:

Ket has told me that she often picks books based on amusing titles or cover art, and let's face it: by those criteria, this is a sure-fire winner. The title is fantastic, I love that the subtitle precedes the main title, and although the title story includes a "life-sized Steiff rhinoceros" from F.A.O. Schwartz, there's nothing about baby Leonard destroying the Empire State Building, which is grossly out of scale anyway. My cousin has three classic B-movie posters professionally mounted and hung on his wall; I want this book cover as a poster. The only thing it's missing is a busty, leggy blonde in torn clothing screaming at the camera, and it could beat every poster my cousin has--even Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

I laughed myself into a stupor when I saw this book, and woke up three days later eager to see what it offered. Reed filled it with short, strange stories that range from detailed but uninspired ("War Songs," in which the women form a militia to fight the men, who don't really take it seriously. Some of the women are disappointed to learn that their roles in the new regime are the same as the roles they left behind--cooking, cleaning--while others are hell bent on destroying men entirely, reminding me of nothing so much as an underground comic series.) to inventively bizarre (a more literal take on "Empty Nest" syndrome). It reminded me of that phase in high school when I found out that Ray Bradbury, in addition to Fahrenheit 451, had also written tons of short stories. I happily plowed through two or three collections of his stuff, and while it was always entertaining, it often left me with the feeling that I had taken drugs cooked up in someone's bathroom. Bradbury likes to take really strange ideas (What if a baby had an adult's intelligence and really hated his parents? What if you could buy a robot grandma?) and toy with them, and I think that for many writers, that's the whole point of a short story; getting to play with an idea that intrigues you, but isn't enough to carry a book on its own.

Kit Reed does the same thing. There's a lot of funny little ideas (What if you could order a genius baby? What if you hired a horrific monster to eat your in-laws?), and Reed toys with them, but it feels more like a sketchbook than a gallery opening. I finished a lot of stories wondering what the hell the point was. Granted, I tend to prefer a little closure, a little explanation; I like to get a good, solid look into the world of the story instead of just a brief glimpse. Some of the stories gave me what I wanted--I really liked Empty Nest, even though there's no good explanation of what's going on, because the part that Reed gave us was done so well. Then there are stories like Pilots of the Purple Twilight, which feels more like the prattlings of a senile grandparent: you pay attention because you're supposed to, but you get nothing out of it, and end up wondering whether there's anything good on tv. Still worth a read, and a great airplane book. You can't read my copy, though--I'm having it framed.

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posted by reyn at 1:09 PM


Blogger Kate said...

Wow, what won't you read? :)

12/17/2008 7:52 PM  
Blogger reyn said...

I won't read the romance novel she sent me. I don't care if it is set in Oregon, that's just never gonna happen. Or the bios of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and that American Idol geek.

12/17/2008 7:57 PM  

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