This letter contains thoughts and analyses on Kelly Link’s stories Louise’s Ghost, Secret Identity, and Light. Particularly Light. It also contains a lot of thoughts on reading and thinking about Kelly Link’s fiction in general.
Writers did—and still do—put Significance and Meaning and Subtext into their details.
Why, look at all that symbolism in the details of The Great Gatsby! Kate Beaton, where you are… Ah,yes:
Meanwhile, in a different part of the country, there’s a bull in the yard and he’s wearing a crown of thorns—I wonder what that’s supposed to represent, huh Flannery O’Connor?
And in France, inquiring minds would like to know, is this goddamn madeleine just a goddamn madeleine or is Proust using a soggy cookie to make a Grand Significant Statement on memory and time?
The fact is, most stories need details to function, in the most basic I-am-telling-a-story-about-this-and-that sort of way. So having some of those details also serve a double purpose as a metaphoric handle to various layers of the story can be a neat and economical thing to do (so long as you’re not Nathaniel Hawthorne and enjoy bashing your readers over the head with it, I mean).
Let’s assume, by the way, for the rest of this letter, that I’m not talking about when people do this badly—nor allegorically. Let’s assume I am only referring to this when it is done with subtlety, and well.
An observation: when details are asked to carry a delicate cargo load of Significance and Meaning and Subtext, the cargo is generally deployed in a way which tracks clearly if you read attentively, but doesn’t otherwise disturb the surface. This makes sense, since as a writer you want to invite readers in, even if you are weaving this aspect into the story very quietly and don’t expect most readers to notice until the XXth time around.
Regardless of when it happens: the reader can observe those moments within the details. They are there to be observed. And the reader can mentally collect cargo load after cargo load as they read, lining it all up in their head like an elegant string of pearls, and, in the process of creating order, make the details speak.
I can think of at least one Kelly Link story where detail functions almost entirely in this way, though it is a little sneaky about it (and I’ve included a pocket analysis of it in my footnote because, hey, why the hell not, might as well put my money where my mouth is). Maybe it is not even that sneaky, but I see it as sneaky because Kelly Link does not typically put those things into her individual details in that way.
Usually, if you try to line up Linkian detail like an elegant string of pearls, it will turn into a snarled ball of yarn with the yowling cat still attached.
Kelly Link tends to put Significance and Meaning and Subtext into her patterns, of which her details will cheerfully operate as a massive and secondary swarm. The content of the details matters, yes, but it is the shape that those details make as they are laid out within the story that is particularly important. In Louise’s Ghost, for example, it is not important that the ghost (at one point) sprouts hair like a baby monkey, but that the hair, and hair in general, becomes an evolving pattern which skips stones in an incremental way. In this manner, the hair pattern begins to accumulate a sort of Metaphor and Meaning on its own. And then—just when it seems like it has settled into a definite coherency that lines up metaphorically with the larger ideas of the story—the pattern continues moving on, continues to free-associate out of the frame of the story into a relative non sequitur (when we last see it, it is about to skip a stone into werewolfishness, but it exits the story before it can really do so).
(By the way, I think that the werewolfishness was possibly intended to link to the dog-ness of Anna, though I am not so certain. But this is also a moment when I think the story stumbles for a couple of paragraphs and becomes oddly less self-assured—and if you are a reader who doesn’t think so, and think you can make me change my mind, please say something, I would like to hear from you!)
More significantly, the evolving hair pattern is one of several evolving patterns—this type of evolution is a trend throughout, sometimes right down to the paragraph level. (“Maybe the ghost is thinking of England.”) And what more, all this free-associating movement through detail (asides from being so elegantly done that the seemingly non sequitur conclusions and asides end up actually driving the plot) is also a mirror image of the way the phrase “Louise’s ghost” evolves and skips stones, starting the story with one certain meaning and finishing at a different one.
The shifting movement from “Louise’s ghost” to “Louise’s ghost” is mimicked and reproduced by all the patterns within the story—all the details are operating in this same, shifting movement, and the Louise’s ghost/Louise’s ghost dynamic reflects onto them, and they mimic its motion and reflect back onto it.
I suppose I am thinking of coherency, but by different rules than most of us might be used to.
(I have lots more that I could say about this story, by the way—but maybe some other time, some other time.)
I do think Kelly Link frequently uses patterns as her metaphoric handle, rather than using an individual moment here and there, and that is why her stories can get away with these huge masses of details and digressions without it all dissolving into white noise. She is using her detail differently. She is also wringing a new pleasure out of an old technique, because if you are putting Significance and Meaning and Subtext in the patterns, then you have given yourself a new freedom with the details on an individual level. You can, in a sense, go wild and be sinfully digressive, in a way that is so enjoyable to read and write if done with voice and flair, but also usually so Forbidden (forbidden because it can fail spectacularly if carried out within the conventional framework)—but you can get away with it so long as the pattern remains strong—and this leaves you free to set the details to a different task than normally assigned—you can use them like an impressionist would use color and paint.
This seems like as good a place as any to mention Light. I’m going to analyze it. Are you ready?
* * *
Light is a weird story—for Kelly Link, but also in general. I’ve seen it trumpeted as the showstopper of Kelly Link’s most recent collection, Get In Trouble, and in fact, the phrase “get in trouble” appears in Light in a way that feels like a name-drop (and also makes me wonder about Kelly Link’s explanation for how she picked the title for the collection).
I’ve also seen several people naming Light as particularly resistant to analysis.
Certainly if you try to analyze it from Gatsby/O’Conner/Proust point of view, you won’t get yourself anywhere useful.
But while I do understand that perspective, here I am, politely disagreeing with this notion of unanalyzability (politely this time! I swear!).
ONION, Light is also a story that both you and I really did not like when we first read it, and I think this is worth mentioning because we otherwise had pretty varied opinions over which stories from Get in Trouble were our favorites and which ones were Not Quite For Me. So seeing it trumpeted elsewhere as the showstopper while we wore mutual frowns was a little amusing, to say the least.
But I did enjoy one aspect of Light when I first read it, and so even if I didn’t enjoy reading it at the time, I respected it and admired what it was doing with its structure—and the ending was so structurally satisfying to me. I could sort of see the shape of the ending coming about fifteen pages before it hit (possibly aided by how many other times Kelly Link references The Wizard of Oz in her other stories). But Light itself encourages this reading more and more as you approach the finale. Yes, I began to see the hurricane as an encroaching analogue for Dorothy’s cyclone pretty early on, but I would have quickly dropped this notion in my reading if the story didn’t begin to emphatically reinforce this understanding. By the last three pages, the buried little references to Dorothy’s gale, and Oz, and Toto, and the poppy fields, and the witch on the bike, and all the rest—they are clustering thick with their sly half-gestures.
It’s not the Oz-tinged ending that is so satisfying. It’s that Lindsey’s response to getting a clean start in a fresh and beautiful and Oz-tinged universe is: where’s the alcohol at?!
And that’s a neat summing up of Light‘s structural concerns, which are: no matter how full of strangeness and wonder the world is, “you could get used to anything.” (Page 279 of my copy.)
Or rather: wonder and delight are internal conditions. Happiness too. Contentment. Serenity. Et cetera. To quote Diana Wynne Jones (speaking in Fire and Hemlock): “Happiness isn’t a thing. You can’t go out and get it like a cup of tea. It’s how you feel about things.”
That is why it is important to set Light in Florida, where iguanas eating your backyard hibiscus flowers and swarms of blue crabs drowning in your pool is absolutely ordinary, even before you add in shadow-twins and pocket universes and green men with strange-looking cocks and warehouses full of sleepers and women giving birth to rabbits and all the rest of it.
Because, in Florida, most people just get used to it. And if they are (like the characters of Light) jaded and self-centered, then their primary concern, in the middle of the crazy landscape of Florida, can really just be “where’s my next drink at?!”
If magic did really exist in a Harry Potter sort of way, I think most people who are fascinated by it right now would be as bored and disinterested in the mechanics and details of performing magic as Harry and his schoolmates so often are.
I mean, anyone can go and learn computer programming if they want to, and it is practically equivalent to magic in our current age. You can do crazy things with it, modify and hijack existing technology, create new technology and possibilities, access and generate and organize huge fields of data, and (if you are even moderately skilled) command a vast salary and enormously enviable working conditions—and I don’t mean Google. I mean how a friend of mine would spend most of his days swimming and frolicking at the beach, and during lunchtime he would take out his computer and do his three hours of daily programming for a company he worked for (which was located in another country, and didn’t have a brick-and-mortar office anyway). Those three-hours-a-day consequently paid for all his living expenses. He was in his mid-twenties at the time.
If you keep this in mind, and then also keep in mind that most people are not programmers (and most Harry Potter fans are not programmers either), then it shouldn’t be a surprise that most people in the Harry Potter universe just take magic for granted and don’t bother to investigate what it is and how it works and what else you can do with it (even though it is, to us, a fascinating and enchanting notion).
Or, as Light puts it:
“Very few of the pocket universes were larger than, say, Maryland. Some had been abandoned a long time ago. Some were inhabited. Some weren’t friendly. Some pocket universes contained their own pocket universes. You could go a long ways in and never come out again. You could start your own country out there and do whatever you liked, and yet most of the people Lindsey knew, herself included, had never done anything more adventuresome than go for a week to some place where the food and the air and the landscape seemed like something out of a book you’d read as a child; a brochure; a dream.”
This is the structural point of Light. This is the logic by which it is built, and which it demonstrates. This is the pattern to which all the vast swarms of details are chained. So it’s not so relevant on an individual scale that a man was raised by wolves and has two shadows; but it is relevant that he cuts off his second shadow and leaves it as a smelly mess in Lindsey’s bathroom, along with his beard trimming. On a subtler level (on a Gatsby/O’Conner/Proust level), there is a lot going on in this scene that pings back later, but on the surface level, it’s very much an immediately recognizable annoyance. It’s gross. It’s like that one-night-stand who uses your kitchen scissors to trim his damn pubes. Pubes, shadow, whatever, you look at the mess in your bathroom and groan and wrinkle your nose and clean it up quick so that you won’t be late for work.
It’s not that there’s a strange and benevolent plague of sleepers encompassing the entire world; but that warehouses have to be maintained to store them, and paperwork needs to be filed, and security guards need to be hired and interviewed and then let go if proven unprofessional or incompetent. Housing sleepers is, as Lindsey wryly phrases it, a growing industry, so she has good job security, with excellent health insurance—the fact of which is presented as more fascinating and worthwhile, by many characters, than almost any other aspect of the sleepers and their warehouse.
So that’s why the ending of Light is so satisfying in its slow and inevitable build and in its negative climax. Lindsey is presented with the emotional equivalent of Dorothy arriving in Oz. Lindsey is given Oz. And she packs up her bike, takes her Toto-iguana… and goes looking for a stiff drink. She’s in a bright new world but nothing has changed because wonder and serenity and love aren’t things. They can’t be delivered to you through a cyclone transporting your house to a Technicolor dream. Marvelous and wonderful details won’t bring them to you either. You can’t go out and get them like a cup of tea.
It’s how you feel about things.
So that’s the first thing to mention about the supposedly unanalyzable Light.
* * *
Here’s the second thing to mention, and it begins with this: I actually found myself really liking the story the second time I read it (last night, to be exact). This surprised me, because I’m not used to changing my opinion on a Kelly Link story so drastically—unlike Lila Garrott’s experience with Kelly Link, a reread for me might make me appreciate/respect a story more than I did at first glance, but it usually won’t kindle the sort of delight-at-first-sight that I have with my enduring favorites of her fiction.
Possibly I was so distracted by the interesting structure of Light when I first read it, and so put off by how unlikable all three of its characters can be (most of all Jason, who is a sneak-attack asshole, seeming like he’ll be mild-mannered and sweet, and instead turning out to be borderline sociopathic—frankly, if I was Lindsey, I would do my best to saddle Jason with Alan for life, as a sort of petty revenge on the both of them). So I simply didn’t notice the other thing going on in Light, which is to say—Lindsey and Alan. You could, in theory, extract large chunks of Lindsey and Alan’s story, do some revisions to fill in the gaps, and have an otherwise more ordinary and less interesting example of a Kelly Link story. Yet, there they are, set within a crazy and crazily distracting setting – but what better way to drive home the mundanity (to them) of their world than to set their story, complete within itself, inside it?
Of course I think that the necessity to first grapple with and contextualize that setting is part of what can create a reading experience (meaning, mine) where Lindsey and Alan’s dynamic is relatively unexamined.
Their dynamic is everything. And it is done really well and there is subtlety here, so that you see the easy surface of sibling squabble, and then a lot of darker and quieter stuff shifting around underneath it, which is where their real story is at.
Amusingly enough, it has all the traits that I cheerily categorized as aspects of un-horror just last week: there is a lot that is left implicit but unsaid in their interactions; there are these moments when their un-unity (their potential singularity/interchangeability) almost fully rears its head and speaks (and, in the process, creates enough ripples that I should really have been paying attention; and even if I was focusing on other things the whole time, I should still have been able to squint and make out the shape of what was really going on beneath the surface).
Lindsey, and the tone of the story itself, are blasé enough that it’s easy to miss the parts where she is saying and meaning something very quiet, and very raw.
It is easy enough to miss this peculiar and open wound that is Lindsey, that the story is weaving itself around.
By this token, for example, it is also possible to understand the ending of Light as Lindsey taking satisfaction in abandoning a toxic and symbiotic/draining relationship, leaving behind a mock-Lindsey for Alan to find—for Alan to know what she is up to.
When Alan asks Lindsey, “’What do you want?’” the story responds with “She knew what she wanted.”
There are certainly several things Lindsey wants but I think the main one, at that point and in general, is for Alan to be gone. For his interference and parasitic presence to be out of her life—the main point being not a deletion of Alan, but a restoration of Lindsey. For “everything that had once belonged to her [to be] back inside Lindsey where it should have been,” in a way which (as she puts it) only happens when the sun is directly overhead and there are no shadows. No Alan.
“Sponges hold water. Water holds light. Lindsey was hollow all the way through when she wasn’t full of alcohol.” (A different context, suddenly, for Lindsey’s immediate response at the end, of “Where my drink at?!” Well, that’s one way to drown the sorrow I guess.) Also, it is worth paying attention to that detail, immediately after the three quoted sentences above, of one egg in the fridge door, one egg which has a spot of blood in its yolk. The fertilized egg as indicated by its blood presence—twins from a single bloody egg—one of those rare details used in the more traditional sense, as a symbol.
The story is called Light because light casts shadows.
And yet, sometimes Lindsey loves her second shadow. Just like sometimes she loves Elliot but other times remembers why she was a little relieved when he left.
And when Lindsey steps into maybe-Oz (which is infused with light) and out of her world for good, is she thinking of freeing Alan too? Or just aiming towards the (possibly unachievable) goal of self-unification? (And, even then—as a process that heals? Or aiming towards it as an object, towards happiness as a cup of tea that abruptly manifests once a particular condition is met?)
I am not so certain about this reading, by the way. Like I said, I only reread Light last night, and I haven’t had much time to think about this other aspect of the story, which I wasn’t even paying enough attention to the first time around. Additionally, it’s the sort of thing I would love to discuss and pick apart with other people, in a pleasurable sort of way, with tea and pastries and comfortable chairs. I think there is a lot to discuss about how to read this ending of Light, and I really think that the baggage individual readers bring to this story will affect their readings as well, and make for fantastic conversation.
But—if the ending of Light can be read as an emotional closure of one sort or another: the ending remains—also—a negative climax reinforcing Light‘s structural center of “happiness is not a thing”.
And neither of these readings cancel each other out. Who said, after all, that Lindsey wants our children’s-book brand of wonder and serenity in the first place? We, as readers, want that, and are trained to expect that possibility from the sort of fantastical elements that flood this story. We, as readers, observe the structural aspect of the story from the outside, and, like satire, this makes the structural aspect an outsider’s sort of commentary.
Within the story, however, Lindsey is a fully formed adult who knows her own mind and her own pleasures and she goes after them as enthusiastically as she spoils for a good fight. She has a gun with Hello Kitty stickers on it and she has shot a man. There is no reason for her to suddenly undergo a personality transplant just because she’s been whisked away to maybe-Oz. She remains Lindsey regardless of the world she is trekking in. That is maybe a tragedy. It is maybe a triumph. Frankly, making efforts to reduce it to one or the other is honestly a very silly way to read.
Let me just say that this sort of double-helix structure and enabling of twin readings is fucking cool. (Especially for a story about a pair of twins.) And it’s also especially cool because, based on how Kelly Link titled the various little sections of Light, I get this amusing mental image of her tearing up a bunch of sentence fragments, shaking them around in a hat, and then picking them out one by one and using them as writing prompts for making up the story and structuring its progression. (I’d be very curious to learn if this mental image of mine has any resemblance to the reality, though I imagine it’s not remotely accurate, since my mental images rarely are. But then again… as anyone could tell you, writing prompts are essentially just Rorschach blots that reveal plenty more about the writer’s mind and way of writing than they reveal their own value, so I guess there’s no reason that a handful of sentence fragments couldn’t have been the seed material for the complexity and nuance of Light.)
But to carry home my original (and by now almost forgotten, I’m sure) point: the patterns, the context created by how details exist within Light—they certainly give you the handle you need to grapple with it.
Thus I was able to analyze it not once, but twice, and there you go.
* * *
Maybe it is not a big deal to me that a writer would displace basic elements of fiction and repurpose them for different roles, because I am pretty interested in classical music (especially recent classical music) and this sort of thing happens in recent classical music aaaaalll the goooooddaaaaaamn time.
So when a writer is doing it, I am not thinking “my gosh you crazy avant-garde bastard, how dare you tax my energy and time with this difficult nonsense!” I’m just thinking of the composers who are doing it even crazier as a comparison point. Take the minimalists as an example. They are super popular and considered very accessible, and everyone who reads The New Yorker loves their music, and yet:
Philip Glass can be understood, in some of his music, as having taken musical accompaniment—the left hand of the piano, the arpeggios, the syncopation, the simple chords—and shifted the spotlight so that what was formerly never heard by itself is now its own star of the performance. Melody erased; accompaniment accompanying accompaniment. He wrings a new pleasure out of an old technique, and consequently, presents a new way of thinking about musical language.
Steve Reich, in some of his music, can be understood as having taken the space between chord progressions and extended/stretched/evolved/ornamented that moment of movement from chord 1 to chord 2—and turned that into an entire musical language.
John Coolidge Adams will frequently do melodies that are 1000% longer than most melodies ever are; melodies with no end, no clear single climax, and which vary themselves like an improvisation rather than ever repeat; melodies full of excesses and flourishes; melodies difficult to hold entire in your head because they feel so endless and un-finite.
That is because the melody is not the spinal cord of Adams’ music, and in this matter he breaks from nearly two hundred years of musical tradition—but, unlike many other breakers, still keeps the pieces of that tradition around for the fun of it.
The spinal cord of Adams’ music has become the details, the mutating patterns, the chugging transformations and visible evolution of musical cells as expressed (most frequently with Adams) through a giant orchestra. The melodies, when they appear, are both an ornamentation that float on those things, and a particularly noticeable expression of those things.
If you listen to Adams with the ears of 19th century Western music or even early 20th century music (as I did at first), you can feel frequently lost and the music can seem overlong and shapeless, even if it has an attractive sound to it. But over time my ears learned the new language, and a year later I suddenly found myself enchanted by things I simply had not heard the first time I was listening. I could suddenly see what was happening, and understand the logic—and abruptly it was all exactly where it should be, and thrillingly so.
I had to shift my attention to understand how John Coolidge Adams had shifted his.
Melody vs. Adamsian melody.
Detail vs. Linkian detail.
I had to shift my attention to understand how Kelly Link had shifted hers.
Because, though fish and whales appear superficially similar, they are pretty different beasts at their DNA. It is obviously helpful to understand them as such. There are a lot of things in the ocean: fish, and whales, and plenty more. It seems a little absurd to expect them all to perform exactly alike in behavior and rule.
And—personally—I am always more interested in learning a new biology and seeing what fresh love there is to be had.
 So, I’ve becoming a little convinced that the chess scene in Secret Identity is actually a summary of the story’s heart. And if you need to ask “which chess scene?” that is a good question because chess pops up more than a few times. But there is only one paragraph that puzzled me and drew my attention, because of the way it didn’t quite seem to feed into the pattern and form of the rest of the narrative—which is usually the first signal, to me, that Something Might Be Up, in a metaphoric sort of way. Like the author attaching a little “pay attention to me!” sticky note to that part of their story.
Here’s the scene:
“Do you ever feel like they’re watching you, Paul Zell? Sometimes I wonder if they know that they’re just a game inside a game. When I first found King Nermal’s Chamber, I walked all around the board and checked out what everyone was doing. The White Queen and her pawn were playing chess, like they always do. I sat and watched them play. After a while the White Queen asked me if I wanted a match, and when I said yes, her little board got bigger and bigger until I was standing on a single square of it, inside another chamber exactly the same as the chamber I’d jut been standing in, and there was another White Queen playing chess with her pawn, and I guess I could have kept going down and down and down, but instead I got freaked out and quit FarAway without saving.”
Here is a question to ask: does Secret Identity end satisfyingly? By several traditional measurements, it seems like it does not. We gets heaps and heaps of what could easily be mistaken for foreshadowing: hints that Billie is sidekick potential, that there’s something special about her, that Paul Zell is actually a hero or maybe a villain, or maybe Billie will be the hero all along—she comes there to meet an internet boyfriend to whom she lied about her appearance and age, but instead of coming away a loser, she will depart with discoveries about her hidden powers and abilities, and an awareness of the vast world now opening up for her to grasp—
Billie barely gives all of this a fraction of her attention.
Conrad, for one, tries his damnedest to set himself up as her future nemesis but Billie is not interested in Conrad, or power, or fame. To her eyes, he’s just crazy. Her mind ignores him and returns to one theme constantly: Paul Zell. To dishonesty, and now, the desire for honesty.
So the emotional climax at the end has barely a word about superheroes or powers. That is not—as it turns out—what the story is about, though that aspect did its best to hijack Billie’s attention and seduce her down that narrative path.
The climax is entirely, completely about Paul Zell and Billie, and cutting through the games and the bullshit, and offering a hand to Paul Zell to start this relationship fresh, face to face, no masks, no games.
Now the chess scene begins to make sense.
Billie is very, very good at chess. And the story and its characters indicate, without ambiguity, that this is a big sign that she could be very, very good at the sort of complexities and games-within-games and identity-plays that hero work starts to represent. (In fact, her swift handling of Aliss with the engagement ring pretty much confirms this.) She is better at chess than Paul Zell, which is (I think) another part of that whole “destiny knocks, look at all this foreshadowing, aiee!!”
But Billie and Paul Zell were lying to each other, and we never do know the extent of Paul Zell’s lie, since we never learn his identity—what we do know is that his investment in meeting Billie was at the same level as Billie’s, if not higher, since he had brought an engagement ring and, by all indications, intended to propose.
That Paul Zell is a hero of some sort is likely, going by what the story indicates. Which hero, I’m not sure, and I am also uncertain whether the story wants to ever make that clear. Who is Paul Zell? When Billie extends her offer to Paul Zell at the very end, she is not extending it because she knows all about him and his actual identity—but because she doesn’t, and as such, it is a fairly significant gesture of trust.
That is the point.
It is also a total rejection of secret identities, of the sort of chessmaster games that heroes and villains like to play, because if you start playing any game, any relationship, on a fundamental deception, then it will—like that chess scene—go further and further down the rabbit hole, the games and the matching of wits and the masks and the riddles multiplying and digging deeper and deeper, until you’re so far down you can’t ever manage to scramble back out.
No wonder Billie freaks and rejects the White Queen’s offer of a game within a game within a game within a—
At the end of the story, Paul Zell gives her a get-out-of-jail-free card. He offers to pretend that their sort-of-meeting at the convention never happened, offers to pick up the game they have both been playing from where they left off, rules unaltered.
Conrad, and Lightswitch, and the whole world of the convention also present her with an offer, to enter a different type of game, a world where she is special and the stakes are glorious and high—except the two offers are practically identical in that sense. And the offers are cut from the same cloth, as far as Billie is concerned.
Billie rejects both in one gesture. And that is why the ending of Secret Identity is very satisfying, to me. The story never gives in to its own seductions, because Billie is not seduced.
The masks are off, discarded. It’s just Billie and Paul Zell in the end.
 In fact it only now occurs to me to wonder whether there’s a parallel here between Lindsey entering this new universe on a bike, and the Witch of the West’s intrusion on Oz-life. I don’t think the story supports that parallel beyond an amusing similarity of images (thinking of Margaret Hamilton here, cycling past Dorothy’s window, and cycling with Toto in her basket), and also I think that gunning too hard for it would be reductive to pretty much every single other thing the story is up to. But it is certainly possible that a reader could be intended to have that notion flickering in the back of their head, as a sort of wink-y rhyming notion to what’s actually on the page. An ornamentation, so to speak. …I will say, however, that green’s frequency as a color in the story has very little to do with this, I think. Kelly Link just likes green, and sometimes, yes, it is used in a way that is deliberately part of a pattern. Other times it’s just a color that she enjoys using in her descriptions of iguanas and husbands and hurricane skies and so on.
 I pick three minimalists for my examples because they are by far the easiest to summarize and explain without needing technical jargon. They are not necessarily the most interesting contemporary composers, or the best analogues. I’d love to talk about Sofia Gubaidulina for example, or some of the spectralists—but I’ll save that for a later letter. Maybe an analysis of In Vain by Georg Friedrich Haas? Some discussion of alternative tunings and tempo-variation motifs? That letter would be a total romp in the park to read, I’m sure…