cover image The Woman Who Married a Cloud: Collected Stories

The Woman Who Married a Cloud: Collected Stories

Jonathan Carroll. Subterranean (, $45 (584p) ISBN 978-1-59606-494-2

Like a capricious god who bestows grace erratically, Carroll (The Ghost in Love) entangles characters in the mysteries of love and forgiveness throughout this weighty collection of 37 of his shorter works. No sure path to happiness or redemption is provided in a world where listening attentively can be a sign of divinity (“Uh-Oh City”) or of negation (“Learning to Leave”). Memory is fickle and remembering the small details can be a blessing (“Vedran”), a curse (“Water Can’t Be Nervous”), or both together (“The Great Walt of China”). Carroll’s stories feature irruptions of the preternatural into the routine, where it challenges his ordinary characters to believe in themselves and their desires, hiding its sting under the silliness of an imaginary friend like “Mr. Fiddlehead” or a Hollywood icon in “The Jane Fonda Room.” The collection’s completeness is its downfall; it’s hard to take much of Carroll’s strong voice in one sitting, and the repetition of themes, metaphors, and images eventually becomes wearying. Agent: Richard Parks, the Richard Parks Agency. (Aug.)