Guide The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories

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Start by marking “The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories” as Want to Read: Kit Reed was an American author of both speculative fiction and literary fiction, as well as psychological thrillers under the pseudonym Kit Craig. Her "best-of" collection, The Story.
Table of contents

There is an echo of the same scenario in "Pilots of the Purple Twilight" when women gather at the Miramar hotel waiting for their menfolk to return from war, but we gradually realise that the men have marched off to all the different wars of the twentieth century, and the women still wait. We wonder, by the end, how the women might react if their men actually did return, but we don't know.

It should be obvious by now that there is no simple way of talking about Kit Reed's fiction. There are recurring themes and images. For instance, both "Wherein We Enter the Museum" and "The Outside Event" present writing as a competitive endeavour, in which success is due to the last one standing rather than any actual talent. Both have a suggestion of violence that is never entirely explicit, both are satirical in tone, yet they are very different stories and the repetition we see here is not to be found in any of the other stories.

There are lost people, completely outside of society, in both "Weston Walks," in which they live below New York's Central Park, and in "The Legend of Troop 13" where a troop of Girl Guides has gone missing on a mountain close to an observatory, but again these are treated very differently, and the resonances do not sound throughout the rest of the collection. In the end, there is no readily identifiable Kit Reed story; these stories are united simply by being superbly realised, vividly written, and decidedly unsettling.

Whatever else they are, these are not comforting stories, but they do constitute one of the most compelling collections you are likely to read this year. A father calls his four daughters home to take apocalyptic, miniaturized refuge within the warm confines of an alligator.

The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories by Kit Reed

A were-mother struggles with the devouring nature of her love. In New York a giant baby terrorizes Manhattan. Hidden in the mountains, a group of women engage in revolution and, in the end, struggle as much with their own self-imposed limitations as they do with the oppressions of their society. Kit Reed's stories confront us again and again with the prisons of human existence—guilt, love, family, sex, gender.

Her narratives turn on how her characters respond—revolution or acceptance? Delusion or daring escape? Kit Reed was born in San Diego, California in She moved around a lot as a kid. Her father was a submarine commander who died in World War II. Perhaps this has something to do with why so many of her stories feature characters dislocated in body or soul, searching for a home, for something real and lasting. A dislocation marks the stories themselves, too, their varying styles, perspectives, and content having led to their appearance in venues ranging from The Yale Review to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Reed likes to refer to herself as "trans-genred. Wolfe's introduction to this new collection of stories, The Story Until Now , remarks on how her writing lives in the "interstices between various fictional categories. In her penchant for mordant absurdism—in one story, a kitschy historical village doubles as horrific prison for the town's convicts—she serves as a forerunner to the likes of George Saunders, another writer whose stories fall between the streams of lit and spec.

The Story Until Now by Kit Reed

Reed spent the early part of her career writing for newspapers like The St. The perspectives of some of her short stories resemble that of an omniscient reporter, bouncing from mind to mind, examining all the angles, digging for different stories, different truths. Her prose often rat-a-tats in the way of a wise-ass war journalist who has embedded themselves deep behind enemy lines. It's a cocktail mixed with equal parts immersion and detachment, splashed with grotesquerie, bitterness, and wonder. In one story, "the lemon eyes" of a nightmarish dog "glimmer like paired moons" p.

In, "Sisohpromatem," a reversal of Kafka's Metamorphosis , Joseph Bug, a cockroach, wakes up as a human being. For Reed, war is a thing neither literal nor metaphorical, so much as omnipresent. One finds in The Story Until Now a thick catalogue of war: Writers poisoning other writers.

Sisters eating the meat of dead men. Soldiers devouring death itself.

Reed's stories project an exuberant sort of cynicism—so exuberant as to be, at times, nearly romantic. The titular marine in "The Singing Marine" finds himself trapped in a melody of blood and death that he can't quite place, and can't quite stop singing, for no reason, for every reason.

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The notes of his subconscious lift and burden him. He tells a woman, in a break between songs, "I was born of blood and violence.

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If you can't handle either, you don't want me sitting with you. Searching for himself, for treasure, for a way out of the song that sings him, the marine enters a labyrinth of three lemon-eyed dogs. He exits into a narrative where still "his heart is breaking and the song he sings will not stop singing itself. In "High Rise High," Special Agent Betsy, aged , grabs a scrunchy, dyes her hair day-glo green, pops a wad of chewing gum in her mouth. She goes undercover 21 Jump Street -style in order to infiltrate High Rise High, a cliffside school cum citadel in the midst of revolt.

High School is a prison. Adults are the jailers. Special Agent Betsy, a veteran of Attica, a policer officer's orphan, struggles in her assignment to infiltrate and overthrow the revolution. She calls herself Trinket and finds herself bound, imprisoned, in her own act, her rising popularity, her traitorous heart. She falls in love with the teenaged revolution's leader, a boy named Johnny.

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She thinks if she had a diary she would write, "They really like me. Johnny likes me" p. In "Songs of War," a pillar of smoke rises from the mountains beyond suburbia. A group of women have gathered to discuss the "vagaries of life, and women's condition. Sally Hall, one of many women, of many housewives, feels the pull of the smoke, the distant flame on their horizon, "thinking wistfully of campfire camaraderie, of everybody marching together in common cause.

As in many of her stories, Reed floats among several viewpoints. Beyond Sally, she visits Patsy, a young upstart who falls in love with a man named Andy, as well as Sheena, a leader out for blood, and June, a bedraggled housewife who, alas, gets tasked with kitchen duty in the revolution. Sally Hall joins the revolution, eventually. She finds it inevitable, sad, and confusing. She loves her husband. She wishes things were better. Here's how she puts it:. Sally was drawn toward home but at the same time, looking around at the disparate women and their growing discontent, she knew she ought to stay on until the revolution had put itself in order.

The women were unable to agree what the next step should be, or to consolidate their gains, and so she met late into the night with Sheena, and walked around among the others. She had the feeling that she could help, that whatever her own circumstance, the others were so patently miserable she must help.

The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories

The remarkable ambivalence towards war, revolution, and freedom in "Songs of War" is characteristic of Reed. Revolutions and movements feminism, among others tend to demand a united front. They obliterate the self sometimes as much as the oppression being fought against. The struggle for freedom becomes, perhaps demands, a kind slavery. In the struggles of women, of children, of parents, of soldiers, Reed explores both the need to rebel and the need to be safe. The need to escape and the need to find ourselves. For her part, Reed seems to have spent spent her writing life not caring too much for the limitations of one genre or another.

One venue or another. One time or another. The Story Until Now is organized not chronologically, but thematically, so that one is surprised, at times, to see that a seemingly modern sensibility was penned in Wherein We Enter the Museum pp. High Rise High pp. Song of the Black Dog pp. How It Works pp. Journey to the Center of the Earth pp. The Singing Marine pp. In the Squalus pp. Pilots of the Purple Twilight pp. On the Penal Colony pp.

The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories

The Food Farm pp. In Behalf of the Product pp. Songs of War pp. The Bride of Bigfoot pp. The Zombie Prince pp. The Outside Event pp. The Legend of Troop 13 pp. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.