I fell in love with Kelly Link’s writing from the first page of the first story in Stranger Things Happen. That was some years ago, but I go back to the book often, and often I find I’ve misremembered something, even as I fall in love with the stories again. I have even had the just-for-a-second delusion, faster than reason, that Link has snuck into my home and rewritten stories to dazzle me differently this time, because that’s just the sort of thing she’d do. She’s funny and bookish, charming and ghoulish, original even when she’s referential. She’s one of those writers I always tell people about, but worry how to describe her: yes, she writes ghost stories and fantasy, but not really. But, really, she does: aficionados of both should love her, but so should people who never stray from the strictest lit-fic. I admire imagination and craft, in equal measure. Link is one of the very few who have both in seemingly limitless quantity.
Arthur Phillips is the bestselling author of The Egyptologist and Prague, which was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His most recent novel, Angelica, comes out in paperback in February.I admit to having bought a book for its cover. For years I had seen the four spines of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time lined up on bookstore shelves and admired them, wished the spines – which together form a Poussin painting – were up on my own. And so I bought the first book, dove in for no reason except coveting the covering, without having any idea what I was about to read.I emerged from the fourth volume six months later, having read nothing but Powell in the intervening time, and having completed one of the great reading experiences of my life, truly distraught that it was over.Pretentious claim, for which I apologize, but here it is: a few years earlier, I read the whole damn In Search of Lost Time (or whatever you want to call it), and the payoff at its end, after all the toil and pleasure, is no more powerful than a similar payoff at the end of Powell. You finish both with the sensation of having spent a long lifetime at the side of the narrator. You have the same feeling of nostalgia, profundity, passing years, lives led and finished, the power of a master of letters guiding you to the illusion of lived experience.That said, Powell is also funny, really funny, which is a claim I do not think can be made for Proust without straining something – credulity or a groin muscle.More from A Year in Reading 2007