It is kind of a shame that Stacey Levine's stories have to be published in the form of a book. It's not that they should appear in e-books or anything so mundane as that. Rather, I wish it were somehow possible to hire elfin booksellers to sneak into your home and hide Levine's stories in odd places—inside a cereal box, tucked into a pair of swimming trunks, taped to the back of the oven—so that you could discover them at random and, perhaps, inopportune times. Levine's stories are rare and mysterious things, and confronting them in a book makes them feel less wondrous somehow.
They all begin compellingly: "Hallo. I'm a fool. I married Mike Sump." "Imagine being a bean: a pale supplicant, rimy dot, a belly-wrinkled pip, lying enervated on the kitchen chair, trying too hard all the time." Some of the stories are plain as day; others are willfully obtuse, as though jealously guarding a secret. You can't just read fiction by Levine the way you'd appreciatively read a short story by, say, Alice Munro. You have to pry the words apart like a poem and trust the language to reveal something of value.
Levine's fiction focuses and builds on the same themes that old fairy tales do, like weddings and family disputes and food and creatures that behave strangely and the wonder of flying. But reading the stories that make up The Girl with Brown Fur in rapid succession, one after another in the order in which they're presented, is not recommended—a reader can get too swept up into pummeling the stories with his eyes, trying to discern some kind of universal truth from them. They lose their uniqueness that way. And, sadly, no matter the fee, booksellers will not come to your house and hide stories in it. So here is what you should do: Open The Girl with Brown Fur. Read one of Levine's stories. (Slowly!) When you're done, find a child, preferably one with wise eyes, and pay the child 50 cents or a dollar to hide the book somewhere in your home. Find.Read. Repeat.