Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A magical story collection

This is a collection of stories that were almost all previously published between 1986 and 2001, featuring young protagonists who are lost in one way or another. The themes and subject matter common to de Lint's novels are all present here: magic in urban settings, the power of music and art, hidden doorways into other worlds, and beings from mythology, faerie and folktales brought to life.

Some of the stories are set in Newford, a fictional city where many of de Lint's stories and novels take place, and feature characters from previously published works. I particularly enjoyed the author's introduction to each of the stories - he tells a bit about the history of Newford and how it came to be, which I found to be particularly fascinating because Newford is one of my favorite fictional settings. Other tales are set in other cities and countries and deal with things - like vampires and trows - that are not typically found in Newford.

I am not an avid reader of short stories, mainly because they either don't give me enough (I want more of the story, more about the characters - and it frustrates me when it ends too soon), of because there isn't enough there to pull me in - it's more about an idea or concept, and that kind of story tends not to be as appealing to me. That is a sweeping generalization, of course - I love the short stories of Poe and Lovecraft and George MacDonald, among others - I just don't tend to pick them up as often as a nice, meaty novel that I can live in for a few days.

De Lint's collections, because they are often woven of the lives of favorite characters and familiar places, have the feel of a novel to me, in the sense that the stories and characters are interconnected . I like that! For example, the story "Somewhere in My Mind There is a Painting Box" is about Lily, a teenager living in the Appalachian mountains who loves painting and drawing. She discovers a rusty old box of paints in the woods one day, and the name on the box is the name of a famous painter who had disappeared in the woods twenty years earlier. Lily stumbles upon the mystery of what happened to him, which opens a door of possibilities that result in a difficult choice for her, an important decision that will affect the rest of her life. This is the very same Lily from the children's book A Circle of Cats, which tells a story about her when she was a young girl - and it is the same Lily from de Lint's novella for adults, Seven Wild Sisters. Each of the works stands along, but it gains a bit more depth when read in conjunction with the others.

Friends often ask me which book of de Lint's they should start with, and while I'm a total stickler about reading books in order, I'm at a bit of a loss with this particular author. The first book of his that I read was The Little Country, which is unrelated to Newford and worked great for me. But it really does work to start just about anywhere, because of the way he moves back in forth in time and from character to character. I'd say to wait a bit on Onion Girl and Widdershins (and read those two in that order), and that the short story collections are a great place to start.

De Lint is one of my favorite authors because his themes and characters resonate so well with my own beliefs and the things that fascinate me. I love the way the mythological is brought to life and the magical and ordinary exist side by side for those who keep their eyes and hearts open. De Lint's fictional worlds are among my very favorites to visit and revisit.

This is the penultimate book for Carl's Once Upon a Time II reading challenge. Stop by the review site to see a whole list of reviews about the fantastical and mythological that other

Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint (Viking, 2002)

Also reviewed at:
Not Really a Pixie Girl
Opinions of a Reformed Dropout
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Things Mean a Lot

B&OT reviews of other works by de Lint:
A Circle of Cats
Little (Grrl) LOST
Widdershins
Wolf Moon

19 comments:

  1. I loved this collection and would definitely recommend it to anyone who has not read any of de Lint's work before as it is such a great introduction to a range of his settings and characters. The tale about the trow was my favourite. I am glad you enjoyed it too :)

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  2. "De Lint is one of my favorite authors because his themes and characters resonate so well with my own beliefs and the things that fascinate me."

    Yup! Well, I can't call him a favourite yet since I've only read one of his books, but I do feel the same way about his work.

    This is a great collection, and I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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  3. Rhinoa - I'm glad you loved it - and the one with the trow was one of my favorites, too. :-)

    Nymeth - I predict that he will become one of your favorites, based on how many other favorites we share!

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  4. What an interesting review! I just finished reading Seven Wild Sisters, only my second de Lint, so I was particularly interested to hear that one of the stories is about Lily. How cool to weave his characters into other stories! I will definitely have to read this one now. Thanks!

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  5. oooh...I've heard tons of great things about Charles de Lint but I've yet to pick up one of his books. Maybe now's the time to do so...
    Oh, and I found your blog through Weekly Geeks!
    -Reader Rabbit

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  6. I always find it quite sad that such an obviously popular author hasn't made it to the general public. I worked in a bookshop for years and always considered myself relatively savvy when it came to books, but I didn't hear about Charles de Lint until Rhinoa recommended him to me a few months ago. Since then, I've heard nothing but gushing praise about the man and his work from so many bloggers.

    So yes, I'm sold! I shall definitely be reading his work, starting with this title and shall never reply totally on myself to find new authors again! Yet another reason why the blogging world is so wonderful!

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  7. Robin - I loved Seven Wild Sisters, and also A Circle of Cats, with its gorgeous illustrations by Charles Vess. It is fun when favorite characters appear - sometimes in they just have "walk on" parts, but it's always fun to see them. I'm sure you'll enjoy this collection.

    Thanks for stopping by, Chatteringbee! You are in for a treat, whichever book by de Lint you decide to read first!

    Hi, Mariel - I hope the build-up won't be too much, as far as de Lint goes! I'm sure you'll enjoy whichever one you start with, though. And yes, I know just what you mean about the blogging world - I have discovered so many wonderful authors - and been egged on to read some that I have been meaning to for ages - because of people's wonderful reviews.

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  8. I have this in my TBR pile right now.

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  9. How funny. I just reviewed a de Lint book myself a couple of days ago. I just love de Lint. I'm totally with you on the short story too, although I'm trying hard to break free of that type of thinking. Neil Gaiman's stories have helped.

    Nice review!

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  10. Ladytink - you'll love it!

    Stephanie - Between you and Chris and all the others reviewing Gaiman's short stories, his collections have gone on my list, too!

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  11. I feel the same as you about short stories. I need more time to get into the story and with short stories, as soon as I'm into it it's over! But sometimes some writers are capable to grab me from the start and write beautiful satisfying short stories.
    The fact that these are interconnected is definitely a big plus! I know I'll be reading everything by Charles De Lint in the future and I'll be looking forward to this one!

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  12. You will definitely enjoy this, I'm sure. The interconnectedness is a big payoff, but even without it the stories are still wonderful! I'll be looking forward to your reviews as you make your way through all those books. :-)

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  13. I'm one of the three people on the planet who have yet to read de Lint. Do have a couple of his in my TBR pile, but now I'm thinking I should go pick up this one and start with it. What a wonderful review!

    I wanted to thank you again for your review of Please Write in This Book! We went to the bookstore last night, and I handed it to my somewhat reluctant reader. He sat right down and read the first third of the book before we even left the store. Talk about making this mommy happy!

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  14. I just notice in your sidebar that you say that if people have reviewed books you've reviewed, you'll put links in your posts. I LOVE that idea. I hope you don't mind if I borrow it? I think it's not only a good thing for the other bloggers (because they get links, maybe new visitors, etc.) but for you (and me if I do it) because whenever I review a book, I wonder what others thought of it, and if they commented with their link to their own review, I'd get to see what they thought!

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  15. In fact! I think I would like to use that for a weekly geeks theme, if you wouldn't mind. I would have everyone who wanted to start this as a policy wrote a post about it and invite people to submit their links and then add them to their posts. Maybe a deadline, like review from the last month, would be best, so people wouldn't get a hundred link requests coming in. Ooh, I love this idea! Very community-building.

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  16. Debi - I do think you will enjoy de Lint's books. I love some more than others, but I've enjoyed them all. And that is GREAT news about your son enjoying Please Write in This Book so much! Yay! :-)

    Dewey - I love that you love the idea! Of course you can do it, too. I routinely try to find other blog reviews (using blogsearch.google.com) when I post a review of a book, and I link to the ones that I find. But it isn't great at finding pertinent ones, and I know I'm missing a lot. I am planning on putting together a wiki this summer, once my semester is over and I get some free time, and inviting other book bloggers to join - we'd have a centralized place to post links to our reviews! What do you think? Would you be interested? I also have a challenge up my sleeve for linking to reviews, too, and I'm hoping to post in in the next week or so. :-D

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  17. Thanks! I think your wiki idea is a great one, and I had a similar idea, but so did Natasha at Maw Books, and so I set my idea aside. I'll participate in yours, though. A wiki is a great idea.

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  18. I am so happy to find your blog. I love this author, but didn't know about this book. It probably is on my wish list and I forgot. Will definitely move it closer to the top of the list. Thanks.

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  19. Thanks for stopping by, Heather! I am sure you'll love this collection, especially since you already enjoy de Lint. I'll be looking forward to reading your review one of these days! :-)

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Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment!