So, to me, story collections are generally hit or miss creatures. You usually get three or four great stories by three or four great writers, some good stories by some very capable writers, then you get dregs. Story collections by a single writer tend to fare better, provided that said writer is good or great in the first place. Great story collections by great writers are definitely rare enough, but they do exist. That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote by K.J. Bishop is one such collection.
If you haven’t read K.J. Bishop’s novel, The Etched City, and you fancy yourself a fan of Speculative Fiction, well, then you haven’t really read the best of Speculative Fiction. I mention The Etched City because, by itself it’s an important book, but also, three of the best stories in That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote are set in the world of The Etched City, The Art of Dying, The Love of Beauty, and She Mirrors. If you haven’t read The Etched City, I actually recommend skipping those three stories, just set them aside, until you’ve read the novel that they would eventually become. Bishop wrote two of the short stories before her novel, but I think the short stories are better appreciated after reading the masterwork of which they’re a part.
While the three above stories are particularly important to me, because The Etched City is so important to me, they’re definitely not the only magic that That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote has to offer, not by a longshot. There’s the dark fairytale of Saving the Gleeful Horse, a story in which childrens’ games have deadly consequences in unexpected ways, There’s We the Enclosed, a story of searching for something lost that reads like a fever dream. The Heart of a Mouse is a post-apocolyptic nightmare, a story of people suddenly transformed into animals struggling to maintain their human minds, it’s kind of The Road meets The Tale of Despereaux meets The Rapture gone terribly wrong. Mother’s Curtains is a light-hearted look into the world of the absurd, a story of bedroom curtains that feel unloved, curtains that long to live as the masts of a pirate-ship.
It’s hard to really pick a favorite, the entire collection is that strong. Each story has a way of sliding into one’s mind, always to be remembered in one way or another. One story that struck me in a very personal way was Between the Covers, a story of a writer who lost her connection with her craft after taking on the Devil as her benefactor. Writers have a certain relationship with their words, their stories, Between the Covers depicts that relationship in a uniquely visual way. Honestly, I’d pay full cover value for that story alone. Tales of writers come to ruin always terrify and fascinate me.
A really neat facet of this collection is that in the closing pages Bishop discusses each story, talking about inspiration, points of symbolism, all those little questions you’d like to ask a writer after you’ve finished reading their work.
That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote is a brilliantly imaginative collection of stories written by an absolutely brilliant writer. K.J. Bishop is someone that doesn’t blink into existence every day, her use of craft is something special. She uses words to create life, to create worlds, to create art. K.J. Bishop does things with words that few writers can accomplish. Ultimately, she writes things that are worth reading, which is really all that matters.4 comments
4 Comments so far
Leave your thoughts