Pretty Monsters Part One

Posted in Book Reports, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on December 10, 2019

Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The book used today is Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link. PG was given a copy of PM, and asked to create an artistic response. This post is part one of this response. Quotes are from a .pdf of the text.

Citizen: An American Lyric was PG’s introduction to Big Read. CAAL, a rambling art book, was not a good fit for PG. (Part one Part two Part three) When the lady from 7 Stages turned up with a box of books, PG was wary.

PM is presented as a social justice commentary. “Her stories are about more than strangeness, more than the fantastic—they’re about inclusion, diversity, and acceptance of alternate world views.” PG has nothing against diversity and inclusion. He just enjoys a good story more.

PG did not need to worry. Pretty Monsters is a collection of short stories. The first two … The Wrong Grave, The Wizards of Perfil … are fun to read. Each is a fantasy, a type of story PG normally does not read. If you think enough, you can make them about alternate world views. That is, if your idea of an alternate world includes digging up your dead girlfriend.

The Wrong Grave is the story of Miles Sperry, and his late girlfriend Bethany Baldwin. Miles wrote some poems for Bethany after the car crash, and put the only copy in her coffin. Miles goes to the graveyard one night to retrieve the poems. All goes well, until there is a complication.

“He yanked and someone else pushed. The lid shot up and fell back against the opposite embankment of dirt. The dead girl who had hold of Miles’s boot let go. This was the first of the many unexpected and unpleasant shocks that Miles was to endure for the sake of poetry. The second was the sickening—no, shocking—shock that he had dug up the wrong grave, the wrong dead girl. The wrong dead girl was lying there, smiling up at him, and her eyes were open. She was several years older than Bethany. She was taller and had a significantly more developed rack.” …

“The wrong dead girl spoke first. “Knock knock,” she said. “What?” Miles said. “Knock knock,” the wrong dead girl said again. “Who’s there?” Miles said.
“Gloria,” the wrong dead girl said. “Gloria Palnick. Who are you and what are you doing in my grave?”
“This isn’t your grave,” Miles said, aware that he was arguing with a dead girl, and the wrong dead girl at that. “This is Bethany’s grave. What are you doing in Bethany’s grave?”
“Oh no,” Gloria Palnick said. “This is my grave and I get to ask the questions.” …

Miles and Gloria have a discussion about life when you’re six feet under. Gloria is delighted at a chance to escape. Miles is a bit wary. Finally, they go to a cabin, owned by someone’s weirdo parents. Most of the older people in Pretty Monsters are weirdos. After Miles leaves the room, Gloria leaves something for him.
“The dead girl reached down her shirt and into the cavity where her more interesting and useful organs had once been (she had been an organ donor). She’d put Miles’s poetry in there for safekeeping.”
As you may imagine, there are some plot twists that were not documented here. Chamblee54 tries to be a spoiler free zone. If you really want to know what happened to Miles, or The Wizards of Pefil, you will have to read the book. Efforts to bring PM to television are another, less amusing, fantasy.

The Wizards of Pefil happens in an unidentified foreign country. This is one of the themes of Pretty Monsters … you seldom know where the story takes place. Wizards also takes place during a war, but we don’t know which one. It is after the invention of railroads, but outside the grasp of recorded history. This is why they call it fantasy.

Onion and Halsa are traveling with Halsa’s mom. The soldiers are coming to their town, and they need to get out. The money is a bit short, so one of the kids has to be sold to the Wizards. First, it is Onion, but the Wizard’s flunky wants Halsa. We don’t know why they would want Halsa, and her hateful mouth. Wizards work in mysterious ways.

“Everyone knows that the wizards of Perfil talk to demons and hate sunlight and have long twitching noses like rats. They never bathe. Everyone knows that the wizards of Perfil are hundreds and hundreds of years old. They sit and dangle their fishing lines out of the windows of their towers and they use magic to bait their hooks. They eat their fish raw and they throw the fish bones out of the window the same way that they empty their chamber pots. The wizards of Perfil have filthy habits and no manners at all. … the wizards of Perfil eat children when they grow tired of fish.”

Halsa tries to get by. The wizards live in towers, out in a swamp. Onion is on a train, except when a Onion clone is hanging out with Halsa in the swamp. Onion is in a world of trouble. He knows the soldiers are going to attach the train, and kill everyone. Nobody listens to him. So his clone goes back to the swamp, where Halsa is learning about life.

“… she was coming back from the pier with a bucket of fish, there was a dragon on the path. It wasn’t very big, only the size of a mastiff. But it gazed at her with wicked, jeweled eyes. She couldn’t get past it. It would eat her, and that would be that. It was almost a relief. She put the bucket down and stood waiting to be eaten. But then Essa was there, holding a stick. She hit the dragon on its head, once, twice, and then gave it a kick for good measure. “Go on, you!” Essa said. The dragon went, giving Halsa one last reproachful look. Essa picked up the bucket of fish. “You have to be firm with them,” she said. “Otherwise they get inside your head and make you feel as if you deserve to be eaten. They’re too lazy to eat anything that puts up a fight.”

There is another plot twist, and a spoiler to avoid. This is enough for the first post. Part Two, part three, part four, and part five, are now available. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

5 Responses

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  1. Pretty Monsters Part Two | Chamblee54 said, on January 3, 2020 at 11:53 am

    […] let the handbag out of her sight, and Jake went inside. That was the last time anyone saw Jake. Part One of this documentary is now available. Quotes are from the .pdf. Pictures today are from The Library […]

  2. Pretty Monsters Part Three | Chamblee54 said, on January 17, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    […] of the chamblee54 exploration of Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link. The quotes are from the .pdf. Part one and part two are available, at an internet near you. Pictures for are from the The Library of […]

  3. […] The Library of Congress. Quotes are from the .pdf. Previous episodes of this series are available. (part one part two part […]

  4. […] in this series. The focus is Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link. The first four episodes are out. (Part one part two part three part four) The Big Read artistic response will get there, somehow. So far, this […]

  5. […] scare? ~ j057 The Surfer Part One was written as a response to “The Surfer” from Pretty Monsters. It was completed after the deadline, and was not included in Human: A Pretty Monstrous Experience […]

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