I haven’t read a good book of short stories since receiving Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City two Christmases ago. So, in honor of National Short Story Month, I selected a book of short stories, Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint that had been donated to me for my Little Free Library to read for the occasion. I was attracted to the cover which showed a pale, strange-looking young woman, barefoot, levitating above a coastal shore. It turned out to be, as the cover advertised, full of “myth, music, and magic.”
It is a book of urban fantasy or urban legends about otherworldly creatures who live among us in our villages, cities, and towns. Described as “neither a novel or a simple gathering of short stories…it is a cycle of urban myths and dreams, of passions and sorrows, romance and force woven together to create a tapestry of interconnected dramas, interconnected lives–[a] kind of magic…” The author’s style is poetical and magical–“twilight dreams [woven out of ] language and music.” Characters appear and disappear, popping up in one story, then another like old friends walking through the mists and fogs of our reading. It is not just escape reading but “deep mythic literature of our time.” The words and phrases and the unique characters: Jilly, the artist who “believes in magic;” Professor Bramley and his manservant Goon, a gnomelike figure; and the inhabitants of the music clubs, waterfronts, and alleyways of “… anywhere, anywhen… ” exist together in a time and place which suspends the reader’s imagination and beliefs with an otherworldly effect. One doesn’t just read the book, she experiences it.