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.
February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Happy to have come across this video on Twitter — I had missed it when it was posted by the National Theatre last August, but the authors and scholars interviewed have some really great things to say about what a fairy tale is, and how folk tales and fairy tales differ, but both have the same draw for readers. Also, I just love Philip Pullman.
The film was made by the National Theatre in London for its “Theatrical Context” YouTube channel, where there are some other great gems illuminating the figures and concepts behind the theater’s current shows. “An Introduction to Fairy Tales” provides some context for the National Theatre’s current production of The Light Princess, a new musical based on the 1864 book by George MacDonald, adapted by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson. MacDonald is also well known for his novel At The Back of the North Wind, published in 1871. He was a major influence on the genre of literary fairy tales in the Victorian era, and writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien cited his books as an inspiration to them. For Maurice Sendak fans, a beautiful edition of The Light Princess was illustrated by Sendak in 1969, and still remains in some sort of available print today (though you stand a good chance of happening across a copy in a used book store–I seem to spot it and The Golden Key, another MacDonald-Sendak edition, in almost every one I go to).
Let me here just fangirl out for a moment: Tori Amos and fairy tales! My nineties heart sings. Here’s Amos interviewed by the Evening Standard about the musical: www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/tori-amos-on-her-new-musical-the-light-princess.
January 31, 2014 § 3 Comments
So, last week I was preparing to post a new entry on A Grimm Project, and I needed an illustration for “Rapunzel.” I have my favorite illustrators from different time periods, from Heinrich Lefler to Arthur Rackham to Paul O. Zelinsky, but I wanted to see if I could find something new, or that I had forgotten about. I did a Google image search. But I forgot the cardinal rule of finding illustrations of fairy tales on the internet: include the word “illustration.” If you don’t, here’s what you get:
December 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
Mary Poppins needs a hand this winter, and the internet, thanks to all that is snarky and determined to spread truth, is here to save her. The indisputably expensive new Disney film Saving Mr. Banks, as you’re likely aware, claims to tell the true story behind the making of the indisputably delightful old Disney film, Mary Poppins, based on the novels of P.L. Travers. It pits prudish, harsh, and critical Travers (Emma Thompson) against fun-loving monomaniac Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in the battle for the rights to produce the film. Disney woo-ed Travers for many years before securing her sign-off to make the film, and Saving Mr. Banks would have you believe that it’s because Walt finally got to the “core” of Travers’s psychosis in creating the character in the first place: daddy issues. It goes so far as to have Thompson beaming with pride at the film’s release, tears welling in her eyes.
But as you may also be aware, thanks to the diligent critics of the inter-webs, Thompson’s tears are a woeful misrepresentation of the true story that isn’t being told in the film: that Travers was devastated by the film. She fought Disney tooth and nail for five years, and you can bet that that fight was not just a charming sing-along by Richard and Robert Sherman and an escorted trip to Disneyland. It was surely much, much uglier. Walt Disney, to put it mildly, was not a nice man. He was a business man, one who insisted in his early films that only his name appear listed as animator, even when he had a team helping him. One who insisted on slapping his name in front of every title his studios put out, in case anyone forgot it. There would never be “P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins” — there would only be his, and in the end, though Travers fought him, she lost. That’s what this film is about. « Read the rest of this entry »
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!