Sunday, September 25, 2011

[Short Title, please]

I finished Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren’t as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn’t Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out this afternoon. It's a short story collection edited by Ted Thompson, published by McSweeney's in 2005. The book mostly contains heart-warming/ mildly disturbing tales that can be appealing to both young and adult readers. The entire collection was a delight, but my particular favorites were "Monster" by Kelly Link and "Grimble" by Clement Freud.

Kelly Link writes so cleverly and subtly that you can't tell that the eerie has made a home in your spine. By the time I was finished with her story, I wanted to burrow into my blankets and turn on all of the lights. It was mid-morning. Another thing I wanted to do was read all of her stuff.

I loved "Grimble." It reminded me so much of when I was growing up, when my parents had to travel a lot for work. So, very much like Freud's plucky title character, I learned how to be alone at a young age. In the story, Grimble's parents leave him a list of neighbors he could go to for help. These dears would help him make dinner through notes and thoughtfully written recipes. When both my parents were out of town, I had my grandmother. She told me stories about funny relatives and let me read while she did the crossword puzzle. Grimble was quite the sensible young man, smart and observant in the ways only small people can be. But even more endearing was, he was really still just a little boy missing his parents. I have been missing mine, too.

Neil Gaiman's "Sunbird" and Jonathan Safran Foer's "The Sixth Borough" were also in the collection. It made me happy to read those stories again. "The ACES Phone" by Jeanne DuPrau was the real surprise. I tried hard not to cry. But come on. A puppy and a boy. A recipe for tears.

The stories in the collection were affecting in a deep, quiet way. They alone were a genuine pleasure. But the book itself was an interesting encounter. I'm a sucker for pretty books (yes, I do judge books by their covers). Who would not be drawn to a round, green monster imploring you to hold it? But there's more: inside the dust jacket is the beginning of a story by Lemony Snicket. It was to be finished by brave, willing souls and sent back to the publisher as a contest entry. "The winning entry [was to] be published in a future book, and the author [to] receive a complete set of A Series of Unfortunate Events, signed by Mr. Snicket himself, along with eleven pounds of chocolate, a Venus flytrap, six hundred tiny glass bottles, and a large sack of dirt from Winnipeg."

The proceeds of the book help fund a reading program for young people. A very worthy book for a very worthy cause.

Please read this book.

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