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:
“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
May 30, 2014 § 3 Comments
Once Upon a Time bloggers Kristin of Tales of Faerie and Gypsy of Once Upon a Blog noticed that their blogging habits seemed to invade other areas of their lives. They started this round-robin of fairy tale bloggers to add to their lists of quirks and observations about being obsessed with fairy tales, and asked me to join in. I’ve been tagged by Megan at The Dark Forest, so here goes! I’ll do my best to not repeat things that have already been listed, but I can’t promise…
1. Puppeteers (like Layla Holzer, for instance) begin following you on Twitter. Inexplicable, but welcome.
2. You’re suspicious of apples and straight combs.
3. You know that when you have kids, the last thing you’ll tell them is to stay out of a certain room. Because you know that guarantees that they’ll go in. Every story, every time.
4. You’ll always be disappointed that your hair never turned out like a Trina Schart Hyman heroine’s:
February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Fairy Tale Review‘s 10th Anniversary Issue, The Emerald Issue, is now available! The issue is comprised of nearly 200 pages of short fiction, poetry, and essays inspired by The Wizard of Oz, and a short story of mine, “Tin Girl” is included. I took this picture this afternoon when my copies of the journal came in the mail, because the story was inspired not only by The Wizard of Oz, but by the lives and demeanors of my two grandmothers, and the strange piece of machinery that is the human heart. If you’re a lover of fairy tales, or just great literary writing with a touch of the speculative, you should definitely check out Fairy Tale Review. And check out my interview with founder and editor and fairy tale author Kate Bernheimer here on the Train as well!
October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
Happy Halloween from Something to Read for the Train & A Grimm Project!
004. The Tale of the Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was
*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*
When the bed stopped its bucking and the cats had gone to find milk, I straightened my suspenders and set off to explore the final wing of the castle. What fun I’d had so far—sheets askew and cards scattered, the castle had the look of a gaming den. One final hallway, one final door. I rapped my knuckles loudly, and the door gave way.
Ah, it’s you, someone said.
I could see no one in the dark. The voice was quiet and raspy.
Nursing a cold there, eh, sir? I said.
I heard a scratching noise near my feet. Fumbling in my pockets, I found the last match and lit it against my shoe sole. The small light flickered—two eyes looked up at me from the stone floor, reflecting the match’s dance.
Hullo, what are you doing down there? I asked. The man—for that’s what the speaker was, a very old man with a beard as long as his body, and pointed nails caked with dirt—extended a bony hand towards me and touched my cheek. Careful there, Granddad, I said. Those nails look sharp enough to scratch.
I had forgotten how full those cheeks were in my youth, the man said. Look, how healthy that hay-colored hair. So handsome, I was.
I didn’t much care for the smell of him.
See here, old dirt-nail, old fish-stink, which way to the treasure? Dawn’s a-coming fast, and if I don’t find it by then, we’re good as burnt toast, no use to anybody. Help me out, will you, instead of lying there?
There is no treasure, the old man said. His eyes had become very bright, this I noticed just before the match fizzled down and nipped my thumb and forefinger with a sharp little searing. There is only you.
I backed away, feeling around behind me for the door. You’re dotty, you are. If you’ll be no help to me, then fie with you. I’ll find it on my own, and by morning, too.
I’m sure you will, the man said, waving to me faintly as I left the room and faced the deeper darkness of the hall. Yes, I’m sure this time you will.
Old tosser, I thought.
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 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
My newest procrastination tool, “A Grimm Project,” is off to a good start! I’ve used 5 out of 242 of Grimms’ fairy tales as inspiration for short fictional freewrites (I try to time myself to 10 minutes, more or less), and those 5 freewrites are up on the blog for your enjoyment. I’m going in order, from “001. The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” to “242. The Robber and His Sons” according to Jack Zipes’ The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, and posting both a short analysis and a freewrite for each tale.
But I’d love some more voices in this conversation – please take a look, and contribute a freewrite of your own in the comments section. Each month I’d like to publish a “Readers Responses” post with your freewrites. Share a snippet inspired by a tale already featured on the blog to be included in the next “Readers Responses” post, or of an upcoming tale, to be included in a post close to the time when that tale will be featured on the blog (I’m going in order, after all).
So please click over to “A Grimm Project” to check out my progress, and join in. Thanks!
March 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
Kate Bernheimer, editor of Fairy Tale Review and author of a trilogy of novels, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold, The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, and The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, loves to talk fairy tales, even with a grueling schedule of panels and readings at the 2013 AWP Conference. Which is how I found myself lucky enough to be sitting next to her at a flyer-littered table in the AWP Bookfair as she graciously answered my questions about fairy tales, her past work, and her upcoming projects. Just that morning she was among the speakers at a unbelievably packed panel on fairy tale retellings (the other panelists were Jane Yolen, Kelly Link, Anjali Sachdeva and John Crowley), and so fairy tales and their prolific influence on all kinds of literature were on both our minds. In our conversation, we talked about the undefinable nature of fairy tales, writerly childhood nostalgia, the brutality of myths, and the power of the perfect final word.
Kate is the author of the children’s books The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, The Lonely Book, and the forthcoming The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair (Random House Children’s Books/Schwartz & Wade Books, illustrated by Jake Parker) as well as the short story collection Horse, Flower, Bird (Coffee House Press, illustrated by Rikki Ducornet). Her second story collection, How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, is forthcoming in 2014 (also from Coffee House Press). She is the editor of the award-winning anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (Penguin Non-Classics), as well as of Fairy Tale Review, which is now accepting submissions for The Emerald Issue, which will be inspired by The Wizard of Oz. She teaches at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she lives with her husband, the writer Brent Hendricks (A Long Day at The End of the World) and their daughter.
CF: So when I was coming up with questions for you, I came upon a theme, and that is how fairy tales overlap and blur the lines of genre. Mostly because my 1st question is about the Oz issue, and it occurred to me that, like Alice in Wonderland or Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, it’s not technically, by traditional definition, a fairy tale. It’s a novel with an author that we can point to and say, that’s where it comes from. And yet there are all of these examples in children’s lit that become, in the popular consciousness, fairy tales, and so it still seems to fit.
KB: To speak first to the “traditional definition” of fairy tales, it’s important to point out that many do have authors; authored works are not excluded from the body of work known as “fairy tales.” Pinocchio is a fairy tale. Even the Grimms are author/editors. The stories collected in their editions were painstakingly gathered, and edited by them in literary versions, that is “written.” Of course the stories don’t belong to the Grimms; fairy tales don’t belong to anyone. So that question of authorship and the question of the purity of the author and the individuality of the author comes into play in diverse ways in the fairy-tale tradition. My operating sensibility is to read through fairy-tale techniques and a fairy-tale affect. Reading this way, the entire Oz series is inarguably a fairy tale. Some scholars consider The Wizard of Oz series to be “the first American fairy tale”—I don’t think along those lines – looking for originating definitive versions; that’s a gesture that weirdly obliterates a more expansive sense of history. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
Just in time for AWP, I have a new story stretching its legs out in the wide world: “The Nursemaid,” a flash fiction piece, is now posted on Lightning Cake! Lightning Cake is a beautiful new online magazine of speculative bites, and not only am I in great company with a handful of other talented writers, but the editor, LiAnn Yim, creates a delicate, unique illustration for each piece. Take a look, and enjoy!
January 13, 2013 § 3 Comments
A couple of things:
I’m not a big reader of nonfiction.
I grew up in Memphis, TN, but I never went to Graceland. By choice.
So imagine the weirdness of suddenly realizing that I’m reading, out loud like a holy incantation, a sentence by Ned Stuckey-French, affirming his belief that Elvis wasn’t by any means, as he puts it, dumb.
What name should we give to that feeling, that light-bulb-going-off realization, when we awake from a pleasurable reading stupor to find that a very talented writer has just caused us to respect—maybe even to like—something which we’d previously disdained? What’s the term for the condition I found myself in, whispering Ned Stuckey-French’s rationalization of Elvis out loud to myself, like it was holy writ? A Writer-on-Artist Lovefest. Meta-Deference.
Thanks for reading!
December 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
After my grandmother died, my mom told the story of her last minutes to everyone who asked. She’d been with her mother—my grandmother—at the hospital in Franklin, Indiana, and it was nighttime, around Christmas. She was about to leave when she noticed that it was snowing outside. She commented to those there that she was glad, that her mother loved snow. When she left, she watched the snow fall around her and on the lights and decorations outside the hospital. A peaceful knowing came over her: she knew that she wouldn’t see her mother alive again, but that it was ok. She drove to my uncle’s house. My grandmother was gone before my mom pulled into the driveway.
My mom will always tell this story, because she needs to know that her mother’s passing was a quiet, wondrous and good thing at the end of a wondrous and good life. It was acknowledged, not just by her, but by nature itself. This, for her, is the story of my grandmother’s death.
But it’s not quite enough—enough for her, perhaps, but not enough to share. Because there’s the story of what happened, and then there’s more. There’s the story you tell other people, and the story everyone needs to tell themselves. The after-story, the Er-story, the story that can feed everyone. « Read the rest of this entry »