Monday, May 4, 2009

John Kessel saves my sanity and wins an award

OK, an exaggerated claim. Yes, Kessel did win an award (more on this below) but not because of services for me. I mentioned a few posts ago that post-World Fantasy Award judging, I found it hard to find stories and novels that captured my imagination, and that I was starting an awful lot of books but finishing few of them. Well, the other day I pulled from my 'to-be-read' book case John Kessel's collection, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence (Small Beer Press, $16.00). And wow! Fantasy fiction once again has hooked me.

The Baum Plan consists of 14 stories published over the years 1998 to 2008, including one original to this volume. The opener, the title story, tells of Sid and Dot, two not-very-good criminals. Sid, recently released from prison, teams up with Dot, again, and they head off to raid a house that, according to Dot, holds a fortune. The house itself doesn't. But a weird trip takes them to a surreal place where their dreams may be rewarded. Just the first paragraph was sufficient to engage me -- and from then on I was captured by Kessel's assured fiction. He writes with an elegance similar to that of Graham Joyce; it's straightforward, clear, sparkling, and unencumbered.

And so it progresses throughout the book. The last story in the collection is 'Pride and Prometheus'. It doesn't take an Einstein to guess which two literary greats meet in this gorgeously funny story of love and redemption. A suitably strange mix -- and a poignant tale.

And the award? I am delighted to report that 'Pride and Prometheus' won the Nebula Award for best novellete, recently announced. Other award winners include Ursula Le Guinn for Powers in the novel category. Find out more here. And if you want to learn more about John Kessel (you should), go here.

1 comment:

realthog said...

"I mentioned a few posts ago that post-World Fantasy Award judging, I found it hard to find stories and novels that captured my imagination"

I had the same experience when I did this task back in the '90s: it was about six months before I was able to read anything for leisure beyond the daily newspaper -- and longer than that before I could face a fantasy novel again.