Small wonders and magic are close at hand in the sixteen short stories in this collection. Many, but not all, of the stories do deal with childhood and the unformed longings and tiny but lasting traumas generated by the process of growing up. Many, but not all, of the stories incorporate some elements of magical realism or science fiction, but all of them avoid gimmicks and cliché. Klages demonstrates a wise, often wry, outlook on the vagaries of human relationships and a wide range of writing ability.
Stand-outs in the collection include the sci-fi inflected “Time Gypies,” in which a woman travels to the past and meets her childhood idol; “In the House of the Seven Librarians,” a gentle and wise fairy-tale influenced story about a young girl raised by ‘feral librarians;’ and the title story, “Portable Childhoods,” a moving reflection on the bonds between a mother and daughter.
April 21st, 2008
Warning: I am about to gush. If you’re still reading, you obviously don’t mind so here goes…I’ve just finished reading Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts and I want to run around telling everyone about it. It’s a collection of short stories by the author of Heart Shaped Box, and many of these are in the horror genre. Not every ghost story in this book is horror, and not every story in this collection is a ghost story. For instance, there’s one story that knocked my socks off (even with boots on!) called “Pop Art”. This story is about a 6th grade boy whose best friend just happens to be an inflatable boy (as was his uncle before him). The problems with being inflatable are myriad, and they are explored as the boys do things that boys do (except climbing trees, of course). This story is difficult to describe without giving anything away, so the best I can do is to tell you to read it with or without reading the rest of this fantastic collection.
January 3rd, 2008