Short Tuesday #1: “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by Kelly Link

Well, hello, everybody. This is the first post in my brand new blog series Short Tuesday, where I’ll discuss short written works. I’m not promising to post every Tuesday, since getting posts up for every Thursday and Sunday is already a fair bit of work, but I’ll try to post one of these most weeks. Whenever legally possible, I’ll also provide a link to whatever I’m reading so you can read along. I had a lot of fun reading short story anthologies last year; the idea is for this blog series to help me read more short fiction regularly. I figure it will be nice punctuation to all the long-form novels I read.

I also don’t want to be too legalistic and make this a fiction-only space—maybe I’ll also use this blog series to occasionally discuss essays, nonfiction chapters, and articles. Perhaps I’ll even try some poetry, though, quite honestly, poetry is always the absolute last thing I ever want to read.

So! Here are a few books I’m planning to slowly make my way through. Aside from the Peterson book, there’s a pretty obvious theme: I want to read weird stuff.

As you can see, it’s quite a lot to get through! The Weird, in particular, is a tome worthy of clubbing robbers over the head with. But slow and steady wins the race.

First up in the series is Kelly Link’s “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,” from her short story collection Stranger Things Happen. This has been on my TBR for years, ever since I heard Kelly Link might appeal to fans of Haruki Murakami. Plus I fucking love the cover—is that Nancy Drew? It has to be, right? You can read the short story here…

All right, so having now read the story, I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what’s going on. I do really like the ambiguous, shifting tone, as well as the POV switches. Doesn’t the third person narration almost seem like the man is being observed like an animal in a zoo? This in contrast to much of the first person narration, which felt very honest and sad—the MC missing a life he hardly remembers anything about.

Something I didn’t know until I looked for a little more information on the “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” online is that there is a John Singer Sargent painting by this exact name, and a beautiful one at that. I don’t see the connection myself aside from the twilight dreaminess of both works, but I appreciate the Easter egg.

The story’s tone really reminds me of another short story I read long ago in The Weird, about two people who keep finding mannequins washing up on a beach. Of course, I read that short story more than half a decade ago, so that’s really only my fuzzy impression of it. Maybe I’ll take a look at that one for next week’s Short Tuesday.

I also really liked the inclusion of the loolies! In my mind, they were some sort of pale, distant cousin of the Teletubbies. Link had an opportunity here to take this story into full-on creepsville, but I appreciate that she opted for something else instead.

In essence, this story is more about impressions than anything concrete. That could be frustrating to a lot of readers, but if you’re looking for something moody and odd, then give this one a go.

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