Charles de Lint,Triskell Tales 2 (Subterranean Press, 2006)
Charles de Lint's Triskell Tales 2 is just as it claims: a collection of de Lint's chapbooks from the last six years, those stories that he sends to his family and friends during the holiday season. The six stories in this collection all take place in Newford and give us new events in the lives of some old friends -- and some new ones.
As de Lint points out in his introduction, these stories are even more optimistic than his "regular" stories. Consequently, I enjoyed them. I like upbeat stuff as much as the next guy. I have favorites, of course. "Da Slocklit Light," for example, takes a street urchin -- thief, con artist, homeless and not very appealing (although for some reason, I tend to identify very strongly with characters like that) -- and turns him into a hero. So what if he doesn’t think he did anything unusual? It's also entertaining to see de Lint take characters with potent and sometimes frightening reputations and gently deflate them, as happens to Lucius Portsmouth and the bard Cerin, both beings of fearsome power, in this story. Although they set out as saviors, they're made to understand that their frames of reference need some refining if they are not to do more harm than good. If we're going to claim to have respect for each person as an individual, we'd best figure out what that means. "This Moment" echoes a theme that ran throughout de Lint's The Hour Before Dawn: Tom sees things that other people don't. He meets Josie, who has a bit of a yearning for that kind of magic, and there's a little bit of magic between them as well. Tom realizes that not only does he have a gift, but he can pass the gift along. It's not so hard to figure out that de Lint is telling us that each of us can make the world a richer, more magical place.
They really are "stories." Reading this book is like sitting down and listening to a talented and practiced storyteller. There are the tales, a little separate from real life, small quiet dramas, but there are also the introductions, the codas and epilogues, conversational, immediate, that draw the listener in. We become, in a way, accomplices, almost inside the stories ourselves. (It occurs to me that de Lint is making, in these stories, very contemporary, very polished, and very elegant folk tales.)
Another way de Lint builds immediacy is by his references to the ongoing lives of the characters. The crow girls are there, as well as Lucius, Jilly Coppercorn, and others whom we may or may not know well, depending on how many of the Newford stories we've read. Some readers might be a little put off by these references to events that are not in the particular story we happen to be reading, that may or may not refer to stories we've read (or maybe to stories that haven't been written yet), or hint at a larger dimension to these characters that de Lint doesn't explain. I find that it adds another layer of richness, a strong sense of "slice of life," even if the lives are somewhat remarkable. We don't really need to know the particulars right then and there, we just need to know that what we see right now is not all there is.
My one grumble is that the people in these stories are much too interesting for me to be satisfied with only six short stories. I really want to know more about Meran Kelledy and Cerin, about the things Tom sees, about the oil fairies, and about the gemmin. And I can never have enough of the crow girls.