Monday, October 05, 2009

Reader's Diary #530- Kelly Link: The Specialist Hat

Back in aught 6, blogger and author herself Kate Sutherland began a fantastic short story project known as "A Curious Singularity." Each month bloggers who joined the website voted on a short story that they would read and discuss. I looked forward to hearing everyone's takes on classic and contemporary short stories alike. Then, without warning, the posts just stopped. November 17, 2008: Smithereens posts about Kelly Link's "The Specialist Hat" and there is nothing else (until now-- I plan on cross-posting this one). I've emailed Kate to find out what's up, and hope to provide you with an update if she responds. But maybe if enough of you show an interest she'll get it up and running again.

In the meantime, I also realized that for some reason I missed the last story and since it's October and Halloween is sneaking up on us and since Link's story is of the spooky variety, there's no time like the present.

In "The Specialist Hat" Link borrows from some classic horror set-ups (try not to think of the dad from the Shining or the kids from The Others as you read this). Merely conjuring memories of other scary stories is enough to give a reader the shivers. But, of course, we demand more than ripping off others and Link delivers. There was an Amazing Race episode in which contestants had to ride on a bobsled while memorizing letters they saw along the way. At the end they were to unscramble those letters to reveal the name of a famous Russian author (C-H-E-K-H-O-V). As the racers zoomed past K-V-O most of us readers in the audience had already figured it out. Link presents her story in much the same way, throwing details out as we go that connect to another detail we'd learned earlier. Three paragraphs in we read that "Claire is better at being Dead than Samantha." As you might expect, there's more to this than heavy-handed morbidity, but you won't find out until much later. I enjoyed this style a lot.

Unfortunately I couldn't connect all the pieces at the end to make sense. In keeping with the Amazing Race analogy, it's like someone threw in a Q. Even more unfortunately, the part where the story seems to fall apart is with the hat. It's Link's one attempt at originality, it's in the title, and it's woefully unclear and confusing. I admit that last week I'd missed a pretty obvious clue in Lee Henderson's "Long Live Annie B." Have I been a careless reader two weeks in a row? If you can decipher what the heck happens at the end, I'd really appreciate the help.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


JoAnn said...

I'll try and read this story later tonight. In the meantime, here's my post for today:

Nan said...

I was part of that short story group for little while. My story this week is a wonderful one from F. Scott Fitzgerald. What a writer!