Magic for Beginners • 2005 • Magic realism novella by Kelly Link


Jeremy Mars lives a fairly ordinary live with his parents in Platagenet, Vermont. He is a huge fan of a Internet TV show called „The Library“ which he likes to watch and discuss with his friends. Reality and TV show weave together, as Jeremy and his friends are both part of the show and of reality. Similar to many stories by P.K. Dick, it is difficult to decide what is what, especially when one of the characters tries to contact Jeremy. Jeremy’s father, a horror author, adds to the confusion, when he writes Jeremy into one of his stories. His mother doesn’t like the outcome at all and decides to give them a bit room by taking a road trip with Jeremy to Las Vegas, where they inherited a phone booth and a wedding chapel in horror style. Jeremy doesn’t like to leave his friends at all, but he takes the chance to safe his favourite TV show character called Fox.

The dialogues, behaviour and characterizations of the pubertal teenagers were realistic, and I liked the different friends. It is hard not to sympathize with that kind of nerdiness, as it touches the heart of every series fan. The story touches everyday questions like the difficulties of marriage, teenage single kids, and the fragility of adolescent friendship. I found it refreshing how it was NOT patronizing or sounding nostalgic.

The whole story asks to be re-read, as I didn’t get all the hints in the first pass and the playful language is just beautiful. It is a bit hard to puzzle through the different, tightly woven layers of the narration – there is a lot going on under the surface. At the same time, the story felt familiar and dreamy. The ending is completely open, it really doesn’t resolve much – but the novella isn’t about the story, but the story about the story. But why is it called „Magic for Beginners“?

A masterful story that I recommend for readers of magical realism.

Meta: ISFDB. This novelette appears 2005 in the equally named collection. It won the Nebula and BSFA awards.

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