Friday, June 27, 2008

Collected Stories by Richard Kennedy

Richard Kennedy's short stories, long out of print, are fascinating and timeless. They have a certain dream-like quality, as if you've just awoken from a dream that was beautiful and terrible, completely believable and utterly impossible, and it was gone in a moment from your mind. But when you read Richard Kennedy, you remember every moment.

Originally published as picture books, several with Marcia Sewell's black and white sketches, most are more appropriate for older children and adults. The collection includes brief mentions of Kennedy's inspiration for each story.

Among the sixteen stories are several in particular that stand out. The Contests at Cowlick is the most light-hearted and has an almost folkloric feeling, complete with trickster. Many will be familiar with the picture book version illustrated by Marc Simont.

The Dark Princess is a haunting story about love and beauty, showing a different perspective on the fairy tales of cold-hearted princesses who set impossible tasks for those who love them.

Two of the longer stories include The Blue Stone, a be-careful-what-you-wish for story full of sly humor and comic comeuppance with a touch of magic.

And then...Inside My Feet. This story is weird and frightening and beautiful and haunted and my favorite. A young boy living on an isolated farm with his parents is awakened one night by an odd knocking at the door and the puzzling silence of the dog. "Father would have said of Harley, 'probably sick.' Mother would be more inclined to suggest that he had been changed into a wheelbarrow or something." When they investigate, they find only a pair of giant boots. But later that night, noises begin again and when his father goes down to investigate, he disappears. The next night his mother disappears. The next night, the boy sets a trap and discovers the chilling secret of the boots: "Inside my bones/inside my meat/inside my heart/inside my FEET!". They are the messengers of a giant. With wit and courage, the young boy manages to escape the spell of the boots, find his parents, and answer the giant's question: "What became of the child that I was?". The boy frees his parents and destroys the giant and as he falls asleep the next night he wonders..."what was going to become of the child that I was."

If you can find the picturebook version illustrated by Ronald Himler, do so. It's....completely different than anything else.

Verdict: I would love to see these reprinted, either in their picture book form or as a collection!
ISBN: 978-0060232559; Published 1987 by Harper and Row (VERY out of print); Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

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