Sunday, June 8, 2008

Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic

Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic is a collection of short fiction edited by award winning authors F. Brett Cox and Andy Duncan. I read Nymeth's review of this book last year and knew right away that I had to have this one. Fantasy isn't often paired with the deep south, but it really should be more often. The atmosphere of the south lends itself so well to a fantasy atmosphere. Warm nights and the hum of cicadas always put a spark of magic in the air in my opinion. I've lived in New Orleans my whole life and we've always prided ourselves in a certain sort of something special. Call it voodoo, call it the ghosts of the past, but there's just a magical feel this city and it really lends itself to this sort of writing. I was so pleased to see so many writers from New Orleans in this collection and so many stories about New Orleans in this collection. Some of the stories tell magic based fantasy tales and others are more speculative fiction. One of my favorites of the spec. fic. stories that focus on New Orleans was a story called "See My King All Dressed in Red" written by James L. Cambias. I fell in love with the title right away and I think it may be one of my favorite titles for a short story ever. It's a beautiful sentiment after reading the story, particularly if you've grown up in New Orleans. The story is about a couple who once lived in New Orleans, who met in New Orleans, but now live in another state since New Orleans is under water...a forgotten city. Now, years later, they are traveling to New Orleans by boat one final time for a last Mardi Gras and to recall forgotten memories. Really enjoyed this one. I had my first experience with Daniel Wallace in this book with his amazing story "Slippered Feet". It's the story of an elderly couple who have plans to journey to a faraway land to spend some time in their older years. They begin to learn the language of the new land through a series of audio tapes and a husband watches his wife begin to get lost in this land before they have even left their home. This story was heart breaking and heart warming all at once and I loved it. I can't wait to read The Watermelon King now! One of my favorite stories in the book was Kalamu Ya Salaam's "Alabama". This was so much more than just a short story. It was a philosophical piece on the nature of death, the cruelties of life, racism, and humanity in general...all told through a very well written story that I'd love to hear him read aloud. He's a spoken word artist and I found out that he lives here in New Orleans. I'd love to go to one of his readings...I'm going to have to keep an eye out for him. There's so much more to this book...26 stories in all. I thoroughly enjoyed most of them, but there were a few that I just didn't like at all. But that's bound to happen with any short story collection with 26 stories. Lots of writers that I had never heard of before and what I loved most about this was the setting of all of the stories. They were just dripping with atmosphere. If you're looking for something for the Southern Reading Challenge, this is it! This will be my second read for the Irresistible Review Challenge (thanks Nymeth!)

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