The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short StoriesThe Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories by Jonathan Carroll
My rating: 4/5 cats
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i fiiiiiiinished! and it only took a couple years!

i am going to review this slowly, as i read it, the way greg is with his giant anthology. hold your applause until the end. or don’t. this “review” might just be for me, as i savor a bunch of stories i have already read and celebrate jonathan carroll quietly with myself.

Mr. Fiddlehead

this is probably my favorite jonathan carroll story. it has all the elements that make him him: quirkily-named bull terriers (in this case, “elbow”), fountain pens, the blurring between imagination and reality, and deep dark betrayal. o, yes.

Uh-Oh City

this is one of his fairy-tale-feeling stories. i love the central idea of this oneof god as a consortium, but at times it feels a little cheeky to me. the turn is great, though, and i do love this story overall, but there is something unpolished and embryonic about it that makes me feel a little shy for him, somehow.

The Second Snow

sad. spooky. dogs.

The Fall Collection

this is a non-magical jonathan carroll story that still feels, somehow, as though there is magic there, something subterranean bubbling under the surface. it is very simple and very moving, and it has just enough of those jonathan carrolly flourishes to make you squint to see if anything extraordinary is happening. but, no. just a man facing his impending death, impeccably dressed.

Friend’s Best Man

god, that ending! this is one of his knockouts. full of magic and loss and unlikely friendships and a dog, naturally, and oodles of ambiguous tension. i like this story very much. and vitamin d!!

The Sadness of Details

another great deity-speculation piece. i love the way jc manipulates mythologies and big questions into something that makes sense to mortals; a more practical interpretation of the ineffable. he does it frequently, and well. and naturally they contradict each other when viewed big picture, but the wealth of alternative realities he imagines always gets my blood flowing.

Waiting to Wave

this is jonathan carroll’s sad little story about how magical thinking can break our already-broken hearts. i frequently have a sense of wanting to spend more time with carroll’s characters, and this is one of those stories.

The Jane Fonda Room

well, what did you think hell was going to be like??

A Quarter Past You

the truth will not set you free. the truth is a horrible houseguest who brings upset and discord where there was once only joy. a really chilling story about fantasies becoming horrible reality.

My Zoondel

this is one of his closest-to-straight-horror stories. my favorite is when jonathan carroll tries to give explanations as to “why things are the way they are.” and this is one of the best of those.

Learning to Leave

a funny anecdote leads to a sobering realization.

Panic Hand

a lot of good material in this story, but it still makes me uncomfortable (if you have read it, you know why), which unfortunately taints my appreciation for the more traditionally carrolly story that surrounds the ick.

A Bear in the Mouth

i am not crazy about this story, but it does feature venasque, and if you are going to be a carroll scholar, you should probably get used to seeing that name around. this story just didn’t do anything for me; usually carroll takes universals, and makes them magical with his explanations. the situation he is focusing on here has the semblance of truthof possibility; when you check your wallet you always have less or more money than you thought you did, but if you have ever been poor, you know exactly how much money you have at all times. you kind of have to. so it’s a cute idea, but it doesn’t have the same magic happening as when he offers hypotheses about more relatable phenomena.


you know how you always fantasize about going back in time, knowing what you know now?? yeah, no, that would actually suck.

Tired Angel

this story is actually more brutal than a quarter past you, because there is no love in it. with quarter, at least there is love that goes bad because of a bad decision, this one is just pure poison. shudder.

The Dead Love You

this is one i would love to see turn into a full-length novel. the “twist” is so abrupt, which is great, but i would so love to get backstory. and i do not understand the ending to this story at all, but that’s not uncommon in the carroll-verse.


short. sweet. sad. lovely.

The Life of my Crime

yay! this is the first story in this collection that i hadn’t read before! this is another one of his fairy-tale type stories, where someone is punished in a real-world setting by magical means. this one feels like it would work very well as one of the anecdotes in outside the dog museumit feels familiar, even though i know i have never read it.

A Wheel in the Desert, the Moon on Some Swings

an optimistic man faces his impending blindness with determination and a plan for preserving his memories only to be waylaid by jonathan carroll’s preoccupation with the soul. this is not my favorite story. i don’t understand why he bothered to set up the character with such great details and backstory only to undermine it with what amounts to a spiritual margin-doodle daydream.

A Flash in the Pants

houses, like dogs, start to look like their owners, for better or worse. your house loves you, misses you when you go, and is disappointed by your choices. you have made your house very sad.

Black Cocktail

review here, to save space

Crimes of the Face

oddly enough, this is another non-magical story about a dapper man, or rather about the son of a dapper man, but it is not the same dapper man from the fall it?

Fish in a Barrel

ignorance is bliss, and sometimes a forgotten memory is simply the mind’s best method of self-preservation. there is a danger in trying to remember, because while there is a place where it’s all known, there is a price, and there will always be someone who takes delight in your pain. crane’s view shout-out!

A Gravity Thief

Harvey had to say it again, just to taste the words on his tongue. “Fuck her.” They tasted delicious. Like a hot dog with all the trimmings.

despite that closing passage, this one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. i’m not sure if i am meant to be pleased that a weak and petty man has found a way to hurt the people who have hurt him. because i’m not. what i get from this story is that a hateful and bitter person discovers a magical way to strike back at the pain of a heartache he was at least half responsible for and instead of owning up to his own culpability and shortcomings, he just puts more poison into the world. hooray?

The Great Walt of China

but this onethis is pure, wonderful jonathan carroll. it is a vincent ettrich story (yayyyyy!), and while i really need to revisit “his” novels to see how this story folds into his chronology, it’s a perfect carroll piece even for people who have never read anything else in the ettrich-verse. carroll is so good at the “what-if” scenario, where life and fate are fluid and orchestrated by curious, ambivalent mystical forces that give us the opportunity to make huge, defining choices for ourselvesto make sacrifices whose ripple effects we do not comprehend at the time: what would you be willing to do? what would you be willing to give up? what will you come to regret? love this one.

The Stolen Church

jonathan carroll’s version of how secrets can complicate a relationship. i love this story. it’s funny and it’s realor, magic-real, anyway, and it’s full of all the great details that his stories always have that makes you want to know more more more. it’s pretty much perfect, down to that last pop of a line.

Alone Alarm

another really good one, and yet another riff on carroll’s seemingly endless fascination with the self and encountering other selves and blah and blah, but i never get bored with his treatment of this theme which says something. i also love this title and the last sentence.

Asleep in Wolf’s Clothing

a douchey man a finds himself in a fun and flattering situation gone mad. a fame fantasy about the dark side of success and the loss of what matters. a little too “noo yawk” for my taste, but it is used to comic effect.

The Language of Heaven

another vincent ettrich story!!! poor, poor vincentthe man who loves all women more than anything else in the world has the weirdest damned girl problems.

The Heidelberg Cylinder

review here, to save space

Elizabeth Thug

what happens when you try to be too clever in the already-overcomplicated dating game and find yourself outwitted. very funny.

Home on the Rain

the most alluring and powerful magic hides behind the things we see every daythe things we pass by so often, we stop even noticing them. until we do. and that endingto me and my particular beliefsbrrrrrchilling.


this is a really lovely story about grief and the mourning process, the weight of memory, and the importance of objects. as always, carroll drops little nuggets of wisdom along the way, like a less-didactic The Celestine Prophecy:

“We don’t pay enough attention to things. We know that, but we do it anyway. Only after it’s over, or they’re dead, or it’s lost, or it’s too late do we realize we’ve been speed reading life or people or whatever and missing the details.”

it’s a sad hollow little story, but with the possibility of hope in the unwritten after.

Water Can’t Be Nervous

argh! this is that thing he does that frustrates me SO MUCH! at the beginning, it’s an interesting story with good energy and thenLO!it pans out and twists the scenario into something completely different (a la The Stolen Church) and it’s fantastic and you are totally on board but then YOU GO TOO FAR, CARROLL!! and he tries to do one more twist that just causes the story to completely deflate and it turns into a sad flop.

East of Furious

this one seems to have listened to my rant, and there is only ONE major story-altering twist. and it’s much better for it.

Nothing to Declare

the diaspora of lies, stealing other people’s stories, and how it’s not always such a bad thing. this is pretty much a perfect short story.

Let the Past Begin

another little fake-out by carroll where you think the story is going to go in a certain direction, follow a certain character, but thenwheeeeelook over here at misdirection hands!

The Woman Who Married a Cloud

women. even when they get to design the perfect man, they aren’t satisfied…

holy moly!!! i finished this book and this review! hooooray! high five!

read my book reviews on goodreads

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