Monday, 23 March 2009

Short stories - Charles De Lint

Despite it being Mothering Sunday yesterday I still managed a very quiet weekend due to still getting over my cold bug thing. So I finished a book and also read several short stories for Carl's Once Upon a Time III challenge -



The anthology I chose off the pile was by Charles De Lint:



I'd read the first story in this 'Newford' anthology previously so I moved straight on to the next three.

1) Mr Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery. This story concerns 'Sophie' who, as a child, is a latchkey kid after her mother runs off and leaves her with her father. Money is short so Sophie has few things to entertain her. She borrows books from the library but is a quick reader so those are soon read. As they have no TV she draws or daydreams and it's while doing this one day that she invents a book and art gallery shop, run by a Mr. Truepenny, where she can go in her head. Except that sometimes she feels it's not imaginary but very real; she even invents unique books and paintings to stock the shop. Eventually, of course, she grows up and outgrows her 'visits' to the shop and forgets all about it... until one day she is out shopping and a young girl looks at her accusingly and tells Sophie that it's *her* fault that Mr. Truepenny is being evicted. Sophie is shocked to the core. How can this child know about a shop that only existed in Sophie's head?

2) The Forest is Crying. Dennison is a social worker in despair. He's failed to save a child that was in his care and breaks down after identifying the body. He decides it's time for a career change and gets rather drunk while he thinks about his decision. He's taken home by a woman he met earlier in the day who'd tried to get him to take leaflets about saving the rainforest, but who seems to know him. She watches him overnight to make sure he's all right and leaves the next morning, leaving a phone number and address. When Dennison goes to the address later on the woman isn't there. Instead there's mother and an obviously beaten child...

3) The Wishing Well. Brenda is friends with Wendy (who appeared very briefly in the Mr. Truepenny story) and Jilly Coppercorn. But Brenda has problems. These stem from a difficult childhood - her father died when she was very young. Brenda feels fat, when she really isn't, has severe money problems, and never seems to be able to keep a boyfriend. She meets 'Jim' who seems really interested but Brenda can't understand that he likes her for herself and goes on a crash diet and gives up smoking. The effect is catastrophic and Brenda loses her job and thus can't pay off her debts. She disappears and goes to live in an abandoned motel where there's a very strange wishing well that Brenda has often been to before and heard voices...

Three really good stories from Charles De Lint, my favourite being The Wishing Well. I love his rather dreamy, conversational style of writing that sucks you right into someone's story... a story if written by someone else might not interest you in the slightest. I also like the way he manages to connect most of the stories. Often the connection is Jilly Coppercorn, the fae artist, but other times it's one of her friends or a friend of a friend or even a place. This is only my second Newford book and it's a year since I read the first but I fell right into it like I'd never been away. That's mark of a skilful writer, imo. Looking forward to reading the rest of these stories and would like to read some of the Newford novels but am finding it hard to find a list that suggests a good order to read them in.

11 comments:

Kailana said...

I really need to get a short story collection from de Lint. I have to read the collections I own first, though! Glad you are starting to feel better! Hope you feel great, soon!

Cath said...

Thanks, Kailana. I find De Lint's work to be different to practically everyone else's and I can't put my finger on why. Nothing is obvious with him, hints of this, hints of that. If you do decide to get a collection eventually, it seems generally accepted that Dreams Underfoot is a good place to start.

DesLily said...

look at you posting for once upon a time already! sheesh woman! lol.. I'm not a short story person, have only read a very few that I've liked and then of course I am mad because they are short! cha!

glad you enjoyed the stories though!

Cath said...

Hey, Pat! Yep, I'm really on the ball this time. To tell the truth a lot of weekends I wouldn't have time to read short stories, so as I was free last weekend I thought I'd get a SSweekend in while I could. Just started my first actual book though, a YA story called Larklight by Philip Reeve.

Maree said...

I keep seeing de Lint everywhere. I think the universe is trying to tell me to dig into one of my favourite authors again :)

Cath said...

Hi Maree. You should definitely read some De Lint for this challenge! I'm just getting into his writing for the first time and it's like discovering a brand new universe.

Nymeth said...

All the stories sound great. I know I say this every time, but I really must read more De Lint.

Cath said...

Nymeth: I won't say he's my favourite author but his short stories are certainly well worth a read, imo.

Shelley said...

I've got to try de Lint and see what all the buzz is about!

valentina said...

I have a feeling I'm gonna love every single thing De Lint has written set in Newford. I've only read The Blue Girl and half of Tapping the dream tree, but I can just tell. These stories sounds just as exciting.

Have you read Charles'de Lint FAQ on his website? he suggests this order her for Newford:
http://www.sfsite.com/charlesdelint/faq01.htm

Cath said...

Shelley: De Lint is not for everyone and I think I would say that not all of his books are fantastic. My favourites are the Newford series, definitely.

Valentina: There's something about the Newford books isn't there? Truthfully, I can't put my finger on their attraction. Thank you so much for the link - I hadn't found that bit on his site so am really grateful. I'm a bit anal and like to read series in some kind of order. The one I really want to read is Spirits in the Wires. And I can certainly recommend Dreams Underfoot.