Guest Post by Kevin Brown
White Cat, Black Dog, Kelly Link’s collection of short stories, draws from Grimm’s fairy tales and uses them as inspiration for new stories. Some of those new stories are quite contemporary, while some read very much like the fairy tales that inspire her—most are a mix of that feeling. For example, the final story, “Skinder’s Veil” is based on “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” but it tells the story of Andy, a graduate student who hasn’t been working on his dissertation. A friend from graduate school offers him a three-week housesitting job at a rural home in Vermont. There are rules, though, in that he must welcome anybody who comes to the back door, but not the front door, including Skinder himself (who seems to be Death, but that isn’t clear). As in fairy tales, Link purposefully omits important information, leaving it to the reader to decide who some characters are or what particular events or places mean. In “The White Road” (based on “The Musicians of Bremen”), for example, the white road seems to be some portal to another place, but it could also simply be the evil that exists within each of us. Though Link has modernized some of the settings and plots from Grimm’s collection of tales, humanity never seems to change.
White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link. Random House, October 2023.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite