The Smug Post
Back around the time Kelly Link's new collection Magic for Beginners was announced, I was flush with financial aid and went a little nutty. (The actual word that someone used was "nutter.") I ordered the pretty autographed (by Kelly and by artist Shelley Jackson) limited edition of the collection, with the interior cover plate and the fancy paper and a ribbon for marking your page and a deck of cards with illustrations from the book. Yeah, maybe I was SWI a little bit. (That's shopping while intoxicated, something which the Internet has made a little too easy.) But I have no buyer's remorse.
It arrived yesterday. It's so damned pretty. Now I am not, it must be said, a person who collects books in the sense of going out of my way to invest in first printings, or seeking out autographs in order to increase the book's value, or any of that. Generally I'm as happy with a battered and used paperback copy with a few notes scribbled in the margins as I am with a clean white hardcover. The quality of the writing is what matters, right? But this, I wanted, because it's Kelly, and the book is gorgeous, and it's autographed. When I ask for an autograph, it's my lame-ass way of saying, "I think you are an incredible writer, and I wish to abase myself before you in the hopes that you will trouble to inscribe your name in this gift which you have given me." (Or something like that.) I can think of only a few books in my collection that are autographed, and most of them are Karen Joy Fowler books. They're in pretty good shape, but no less treasured is my copy of Terry Bisson's Bears Discover Fire, which I had signed at the 1996 ReaderCon when I and two of my Odyssey classmates Barnaby and Carl drove down to the convention from Manchester and I saw Terry Bisson in the men's room and thought that's Terry Bisson and I left the men's room before him and waited patiently for him to emerge before ambushing him and nervously asking him please to sign my copy of his collection which I loved and then when we were going to dinner it was raining hurricane leftovers and I didn't have a bag so I asked Carl to tuck the book in his jacket so it wouldn't get wet when we ran to the car but it fell out of Carl's jacket and the front cover got all wrinkled and it's a little beat up but you can still read where Terry wrote "Hope you enjoy the animals" and I love it.
My copy of Magic for Beginners will not be rained upon. It will be read, very carefully, at home, and any beverages consumed while reading will be kept carefully segregated from the nice pages. Ooh, and I can't wait to read it. I've read, I think, five of the stories already, but I will read them all again, because they are that good.
I suspect that most of the folks who read this blog already know how good Kelly is, but there are always a few. But you don't have to spend (cough) dollars to find out. You don't actually have to spend anything, because Kelly's first collection, Stranger Things Happen, is available free for download under a Creative Commons license here. The first one's free, as they say.
In all seriousness, you need to read this collection if you haven't yet. You don't need to install anything or sign anything or give anyone your email address. Just get it, and read it. I'm sure that once you do, you'll want a fancy limited edition of your very own.
You can't have mine, that's for damn sure.