July 11, 2014 § 1 Comment
I have another review up this afternoon on Slate, of Geoff Ryman’s beautiful and raw 1992 novel WAS. WAS is inspired by The Wizard of Oz, but delves into dark territory such as abuse, AIDS, and misplaced nostalgia. I actually wrote the review over a year ago, and am happy to see it finally up. WAS is being reissued by Small Beer Press, a truly excellent fantasy press that also publishes the review Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and is helmed by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. Check out the review, check out Small Beer, check out the book — it’s all good stuff. And thanks for reading!
July 11, 2014 § 1 Comment
Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods comes out next week from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), and I am certain about one thing: you, yes you, will love it.
Author/illustrator Carroll is best known for her grim, campfire-story webcomics, which, like the web hit “His Face All Red,” have been virally disseminated online in a manner not unlike urban legends. Now her first print collection of graphic stories,Through the Woods, delivers more original tales about the things that go bump in the night.
“His Face All Red” is joined with four new stories, all richly macabre homages to scary fairy tales, Lovecraftian horror, and the gristly darkness in between. In one, a trio of sisters are led away, one by one, from their dreary home by an unseen smiling man. In another, a lonely woman tells of her best friend’s possession by a strangely veiny spirit. Perhaps most chilling is “The Nesting Place,” in which a teenaged girl who has recently lost her mother moves in with her brother and sister-in-law, but finds that the couple’s perfect demeanor disguises, quite literally, an indescribable horror. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
K.G. Campbell’s delicately illustrated and completely charming picture book The Mermaid and the Shoe received several good reviews this week, and rightly so. The illustrations are beautiful while still engaging, and the story is simple and sweet. Minnow, the youngest daughter of a mer-king has yet to find her calling in life—her sisters tend to gardens, or train fish, but she is not good at any of these pursuits. But when she finds a strange object, she’s determined to discover its origins. Her journey takes her to the surface of the water, where she discovers a world in which mer-people don’t swim at all, but walk about on funny-looking appendages that they hide under shoes. If we were swimming in the seas of Hans Christian Andersen or Walt Disney, here would be the moment our mermaid spies her prince. But in K.G. Campbell’s refreshing book, Minnow swims quickly home, eager to tell her family all that she’s seen, and to find that her curiosity and storytelling are her calling.
The tale ends there—an uncomplicated story about a girl finding her confidence and her niche, eschewing any romance, sea-witches, or annoying foot pains. Yet the similarities between The Mermaid and the Shoe and Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (and Disney’s too, if we’re being honest here) are also what will have the adults choosing it scratching their heads. Isn’t there more? We know there is. Will this mermaid princess come to know what exists over the highest sand dune? She wouldn’t be the first — and we know from prior stories that what lies above the surface isn’t all pleasant. Parents might find this short tale easier to explain to children, but they’ll likely have trouble shaking the more complicated story that is its ancestor. And this comparison may paint The Mermaid and the Shoe in a somewhat boring light. Ah, well. It’s beautifully illustrated, and I can certainly appreciate an homage to storytelling, in any form. An endearing fable, The Mermaid and the Shoe is an escape for parents who aren’t up to explaining why any sane young mer-girl would give up her voice for a man. My hope would be that the child who has this story read to them will be inspired, as they grow, to discover more complex fairy tales.
October 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
My first review with Slate is up today, on the latest in Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. Here’s an excerpt:
The emotional crunch of book three, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, is September’s worry that her Persephone visa, which allows her to return each spring to Fairyland, will soon be null and void. Valente’s imagination for whimsical locales in this series reaches a pinnacle with this book, as we follow September to a highway in the stars, a moon-city that grows along the swirling insides of a giant shell, and a lightning jungle that crackles with electricity. But the Fairyland books are not about Fairyland itself—its wonderful locations are merely colorful backdrops for September’s transformation from a Somewhat Heartless 12-year-old into a complex 14-year-old. And despite the presence of beloved characters from earlier novels, The Girl Who Soared is an adolescent’s tale, full of raw emotion, unabashed wonder, and touching uncertainty.
Read the rest here.
I’m terrible at being coy: I’ll go ahead and admit that having an article on Slate is a big deal for me. Two years ago, when I left school and moved to Poughkeepsie, I started this blog in my off hours working at a restaurant, hoping that eventually it would lead to something good. It’s led to a ton of good, and the book that first inspired me to start blogging was Valente’s Deathless, a dark, adult take on Russian folklore. So publishing a review in a mag like Slate, about another of Valente’s books, seems satisfyingly full-circle for me. I’m very grateful for the chance, and I hope it leads to even more good stuff in the future. Thanks for reading!
September 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
Tuesday the 24th marks the release of xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, editor Kate Bernheimer’s follow-up to 2010’s My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: 40 New Fairy Tales. Bernheimer’s raison d’etre is the fairy tale and its form, and her previous anthology celebrated the malleable and enduring nature of fairy tales through fairy tale-inspired short stories by contemporary authors. But with xo Orpheus, tales of gods instead of princes, Heavens instead of hearths, were the challenge.
Myths are innately different from fairy tales, because myths, in Bernheimer’s own words, are about “the celestial, the magical, [the] other, [myth is] from on high down, and intersects with the humans. And in fairy tales, [the ineffable is] among us.” Myths are our explanations not of everyday life, but of the world at large, how it came to be, and who made it so. Retelling a myth means rewriting our explanations of the world. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
AWP can be overwhelming, especially if you’re fresh in or fresh out of a graduate program, and wondering who the hell you would possibly impress with your random spattering of pubs. There seem to be so many, many people trying to do the exact same thing you are, and so many, many of them are doing it better, getting published more, and they’re all standing around having awesome conversations with each other. You might be tempted to just stay in your hotel room and rock back and forth slowly. But you probably shouldn’t.
The thing is, though–once you’ve gotten over the nerves enough to shake hands with whoever it is you’d like to impress, you’ve got to follow up. At the end of the AWP panel on book reviewing, I introduced myself to the Slate editor, then immediately, like the freaking Flash, dashed to the hotel coffee shop and wrote pitches for three different upcoming books I was excited about, and had it in his inbox perhaps even before he left the panel room.
Will this work every time, or for every person? Shit, no. I’m just saying, when my fiance kept reminding me to “get out there and network,” I’m glad I didn’t just roll my eyes and say “yeah, OK, with who?” Because not only would I have incorrectly used “who” instead of “whom,” I’d have missed out. Let this be a post-grad lesson to us all.
June 5, 2013 § 2 Comments
I loved reading Margo Lanagan’s haunting and elegant collection of short stories, Yellowcake, and you can now read why over at Bookslut. My review (which was originally posted here on the Train) has been published in the June Issue, where it’s in wonderful company! There’s also a feature article about Angela Carter’s complicated relationship with the US by Madeline Monson-Rosen, a review of Austin Grossman’s You, and more.
Here’s an excerpt:
Reading Lanagan’s work has always felt, for me, like reading something so familiar it surprises you; it’s the opposite of that writerly advice to “make the familiar strange.” Lanagan is already writing the strange, and that’s what we expect to find. What we don’t expect, then, is the familiarity, the hearth and home, the worry and the relief. In the world of these stories, a simple rose can have its essence magnified into something unbearably surreal, and yet it’s so imbued with real experience and memory, that what is left after the magnification recedes is something human and realistically nuanced, such as the wonder and fear of a small boy, or the love between a man and a wife who have grown old and tired together.
Thanks for reading!