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 »

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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 »

Dear “Can Fairy Tales Belong to Anyone?”

May 31, 2012 § 5 Comments

God I love WordPress. There is nothing more entertaining, sometimes bewildering, and ofttimes enraging as being able to see what Google search terms someone used that led them down the rabbit hole to your humble blog.

I try to let the frequently searched high school essay questions slide off my back while resisting the urge to answer them for the poor student (“narrative voice barrie peter pan” and “what is the atmosphere of the book hnger games” (sic)), and I’ve stopped rolling my eyes every damn time someone searches “lana parilla hot” and it gets them here. Hi guys, I bet you found me again, just since I typed that. Enjoying yourselves? Here you go:

But this morning I saw listed not once, but twice, a question that got my brain buzzing and my heart hurting–someone, over the course of the night had searched multiple times the question “can fairy tales belong to anyone?” « Read the rest of this entry »

Aja! Strong Women

April 22, 2012 § 11 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about strong women lately.

I’ve been thinking a lot about women who are sexual, and have power. I’ve been thinking about the way they’re portrayed, both in contemporary media and in the stories that have been around as long as there have been storytellers.

I’m not the first to be thinking about these things. Second-wave feminism in the 1970’s sparked a slew of female critics who looked directly at fairy tales to explain conflicting views of a woman’s role in 20th Century society. Karen E. Rowe, whose essay “Feminism and Fairy Tales” blended second wave feminism with intense literary criticism; Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, whose book Madwoman in the Attic laid bare the angel vs. monster dichotomy used to depict most female characters in Victorian lit and beyond; Even now, freelance writers like Chloe Angyal are taking up the second-wave fairy tale critic torch in her essay “Snow Job That’s the Unfairest of The All,” published last week in the Sydney Morning Herald.

No, I’m not the first to be pondering the “strong female character” as she exists in fairy tales, and I probably won’t be the last. Nonetheless, readers, indulge me. « Read the rest of this entry »

Stepping Into the Story: Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard and The Sleeping Beauty

January 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Part One: Bluebeard

Bizarre, enchanting, sparsely told yet thematically intense. Bluebeard and The Sleeping Beauty, parts one and two of a triptych of fairy tale films (Beauty and the Beast will be third) by director Catherine Breillat are, for my money, touchstones, criterions, truly exceptional examples of what a fairy tale adaptation can be.

In other words, they’re pretty boss.

As entertainment for a casual viewer, let me tell you, these two are flawed. Breillat doesn’t allow her films to be entirely self-explanatory, and believe me, I’ve had quite a time trying to parse out a concise thesis from the myriad impressions swimming through my brain. Even for the more discerning film viewer, there are flaws: Breillat espouses some narrative devices that are just, to put it kindly, awkward as all-get-out, and thematic explorations that take at least two more viewings to get even a handle on. In this review, I’m not going to try and argue that these films are perfect—but that for a fairy tale lover (and you know what I mean—we’re not talking Disney here, ever), these are required viewing.

Though I can see these two films working thematically in tandem, I’m going to start by talking about each separately, beginning with Bluebeard.

Bluebeard is deceptive.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Obsession with Snow White, and Why the Queen Really is the Coolest of Them All

November 21, 2011 § 4 Comments

There are times when—in the film industry, the world of community and high school theater, mass market paperback production—I wish I could convince a bunch of people in the same gig to get together, just once, and discuss their season’s offerings so no one steps on someone else’s toes. There are only so many times one can see Zombie Prom in a fifty mile radius. So it is with this year’s apparent obsession with Snow White, one of our culture’s most recognizable and beloved fairy tales. New spins! That’s what the people want, and there’s clearly no problem with putting several new spins on the same tale out into the world at once.

It could be, though, as Obama would say, a teachable moment, one for the world of casual fairy tale lovers, in which they don’t have to accept that Disney’s is the only version for them. This is what will separate the men from the boys, the pretty pretty princesses from the Grimm enthusiasts, for now we are faced with—ta da—a choice. A smorgasbord of Snow Whites, all set out at once.

That’s not to say that any of our current three examples—ABC’s Once Upon a Time (which has about as much to do with the fairy tale of “Snow White” as my cat does with the Oxford English Dictionary), Universal Pictures’ Snow White and the Huntsman, and Studio Canal’s Mirror Mirror, directed by Tarsem Singh of The Fall and The Cell fame—are destined to satisfy anyone of either camp (least of all the snot-nosed academics like myself), but we do at least get to know who likes colorful costumes and dumb jokes and who likes mirrors  MELTING OFF OF FREAKING WALLS AND TURNING INTO CREEPTASTIC PROPHETS.

In case you were in any doubt, I am in camp two.

But as neither of the two films have come out yet, and you’ve already heard my rant about Once Upon a Time, let’s pause, and take a moment to prepare ourselves, by recalling what “Snow White,” according to the folks who aren’t Disney, is really about. « Read the rest of this entry »

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