The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

July 7, 2015 § 1 Comment

Despite their responsibility for some of the most fantastic and, in some cases, romantic fairy tales in the western world, one doesn’t usually think of the Brothers Grimm themselves as dashing figures. Sickly and studious, both brothers have more of a reputation for their industriousness than their ability to make hearts melt.

wildgirl_forsythBut in Kate Forsyth’s new novel, The Wild Girl, younger brother Wilhelm is given the full romantic hero treatment, and a viscerally imagined love story between him and his eventual wife Dortchen Wild emerges.

Inspired by Valerie Paradiz’s 2005 book Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, Forsyth paints a portrait of young Dortchen Wild, one of five sisters who lived next door to the Grimms when they began collecting stories for their soon-to-be famous collection. As a girl, Dortchen becomes smitten with Wilhelm and contributes many tales to their growing collection. The novel follows their relationship over the span of twenty years; the two did not marry until Wilhelm was 39 and Dortchen 31, an old maid by 1825 standards, and in The Wild Girl, Forsyth offers a possible explanation as to why. « Read the rest of this entry »

Angela Carter at 75: Reopening The Bloody Chamber

May 26, 2015 § 3 Comments

Fairy tale writer and editor Angela Carter would have turned 75 this year; the sad fact that she died of cancer in 1992 is pinpointed beautifully by Kelly Link, who asks in her introduction to a new edition of Carter’s most beloved story collection, “What would she make of the stories we tell now? What new thing would she make?”

The new Penguin Classics edition.

The new Penguin Classics edition.

We can’t know, but at least we can always return to the work that she left behind, work that took fairy tales and blew them wide open. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or of fairy tales in general, then the likelihood that you’re familiar with Angela Carter is very high; if you’re not familiar with her, then get ready for a treat of the highest order. Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, which has just been re-released today in an anniversary edition by Penguin Classics, is seminal reading for fairy tale lovers, because of Carter’s daring and—to this day—endlessly surprising female-empowered fairy tale retellings. Now, of course, fairy tale retellings are all the rage, but when Carter wrote The Bloody Chamber, she was not only a pioneer: she was setting the standard. « Read the rest of this entry »

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

March 17, 2015 § 1 Comment

“Die Hutte,” said my father as though he were starting a prayer.

I could say nothing. …In my imagination it had been a gingerbread house with roses around the door, a veranda with a rocking chair, and smoke puffing from the chimney. Exactly who was there to tend the roses or light the stove hadn’t been clear, but even seeing Oliver Hannington would have been better than the tumbledown witch’s house that stood before us.

endless_fullerWhen eight-year-old Peggy is taken by her father deep into the Bavarian woods, she believes they’re only going for a holiday. But her father then tells her a fairy tale about a little girl who wishes for silence, and is granted that wish when everyone else on the earth disappears. She is that little girl, he says, and everyone they’ve left behind is dead. Thus begins Peggy’s own dark fairy tale, learning to survive the harsh winters and brutal summers alone with her father, until tragedy and madness force her to rediscover the world she’d believed had died. « Read the rest of this entry »

“A Hundred and Fifty Years’ Sleep” & Other New Publications

March 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Remember those 500 “new” fairy tales everyone was talking about in 2012? Now a selection of them have been published under the title The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Tales, and I’m excited to have a long-form review of the collection published this month in the Brooklyn Rail. Here’s a taste:

turnip cover“What the Schönwerth tales are, at their core, are artifacts, reminders of the humble origins of some of the most enduring stories in our shared imagination. The public interest in the tales, no matter how deserving they are of artistic acclaim, does denote something of a turning point for popular understanding of fairy tales. Fewer and fewer people may be surprised to hear that Walt Disney didn’t invent Cinderella and Snow White (yes, this happens) if more readers are turning an eye to the fairy tale of how a story is made, and how it endures. … Well, here is material as close to an original oral source as many folk tale collectors could hope to get. The irony, of course, is that such a thing as an authentic fairy tale scarcely exists. A fairy tale on the page is either a recording or a retelling of the ineffable original, the source and meaning of which lives only in an unreachable time, and in our imaginations.”

You can read the full review here: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/03/books/a-hundred-and-fifty-years-sleep

Since we turned the page on 2014, I’ve also published a review with Bookslut of Kelly Link’s new short story collection, Get in Trouble, and was thrilled to have a short piece of fiction inspired by three Grimm tales posted at Tin House’s blog, The Open Bar. Check them out through the links below, and as always, thanks for reading!

“I love a good ghost story…”
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, Reviewed on Bookslut

“My wedding ring glinted on my finger: it seemed to belong to a different hand.”
A Grandmother in Three Tales on the Open Bar

Film Preview: Le Petit Prince

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Normally one to rail against major revisions/additions to film adaptations of classic literature, I am completely charmed by this trailer for the new French animated film version of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, and its added narrative of this little girl and her friendship with her oddball neighbor. If you’ve read the book, then you know that the narrator, the pilot, is addressing an unseen listener, and it’s conceivable that that listener might well look like the studious little girl given life in this new film. And by adding this framework, it seems to me that the filmmakers have captured the wonder of reading this book, either for the first time as a child, or as an adult lost in the pleasures of nostalgia. The shift in animation style between the “real” world and the story of the Little Prince is so lovely, portraying the story-within-a-story as something delicate and other-worldly. I can’t wait to see this!

 

Fairy Tale Books of 2014: A Gift Guide

December 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Looking for just the right fairy tale book for all the readers on your holiday list? Here are some of the highlights of 2014, including books for both adults and younger readers. Enjoy!

Short Story Collections

thompsonFor the Realist You’re Trying to Convert:
The Witch and Other Tales Retold, by Jean Thompson

Thompson is a master of exposing the wierdnesses of everyday life, in a manner that brings to mind Joyce Carol Oates at her vintage best. In this collection, she uses the framework and a few familiar tropes of beloved fairy tales and drops them into realistic tales of children surviving in a frightening foster home, teenagers acting out through sex, and young women tempted into strange, sudden marriages.

bernheimerFor the Die-Hard Fabulist:
How a Mother Weaned Her Girl From Fairy Tales, by Kate Bernheimer

Unlike Thompson, who uses familiar frameworks in updated settings in The Witch, Bernheimer is adept at crafting her own tales that are so odd and uncanny that they seem to be from another time. Frightening and fearless, Bernheimer’s imagination is at full force here — read these stories under a dim lamp at night, for optimal chills. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Starker, Darker Brothers Grimm

November 14, 2014 § 3 Comments

dezso_grimmsI’m excited to finally have in my possession a copy of Jack Zipes’ The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, a new translation of the original 1812 & 1815 Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales (I say finally because my local post office made we wait one extra, excruciating day). You may have seen some buzz around the interwebs about it, praising Zipes for restoring the “darkness and gore” to the tales. While I think that particular line is a little misleading, there’s no doubt that this is an important book, and worth celebrating. And, with its cut-out illustrations by Andrea Dezso and gorgeous book design by Princeton University Press, it’s lovely to boot!

First, some context. « Read the rest of this entry »

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