Sunday, August 01, 2010

Short-a-Day: Kelly Link's "Origin Story"

Originally published in A Public Space 01, Spring 2006. Personal enjoyment rating (out of 100): 65.

Ah, the whimsical Kelly Link. Very much a matter of personal taste, for her story is largely dialogue-based--a conversation between Bunnatine Powderfinger and the man she calls Biscuit--so there's not much past the novelty of their conversation, or the oddness of their world. The story is entertaining enough, but it feels empty, full of open-ended revelations that, because of the tone of the story, don't really affect the reader. For instance, it turns out that Bunnatine's had a daughter with Biscuit, and he doesn't know about her; also, she was raped by--and/or lost her virginity to--the creepy Robert Potter, referred to as her mother's arch-nemesis. The setting doesn't really hit home either: Link's description of a rundown funhouse-like Wizard of Oz exhibit and her casual mention of the mutants that dwell around it (to say nothing of all the stuffed-tight-wearing superheroes) works on a comic level, but it doesn't enhance the gist of the story--unrequited love?--whatever that may be. At best, it simply doesn't distract from it.

Something else about this story is off, too: the opening focuses more on Bunnatine's interior monologue, her reaction to the drunken, post-coital philosophy of her restless lover, but by the end, we've lost that inner world. Along with that, we lose the sense of her simultaneous frustration and attraction to him; at the beginning, she wants to dump Kryptonite on him, but doesn't want to hurt "the big lump's" feelings. By the end, she is floating for him, as giddy as a child. There's a lingering sadness, especially when Bunnatine remembers her dead-end waitressing job, where her superpower is useful only for preventing the spread of varicose veins. Such fantasy is understandable in the face of unrelenting bleakness . . . but without a firmer grounding in reality, Link's story continues, like its protagonist, to hover slightly off the ground: off-beat, interesting, even a little sexy, but by no means complete.

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