July 8, 2016 § 1 Comment
This week a new anthology of fairy tales for grown-ups hit the shelves. Beyond the Woods, compiled by Stoker- and World Fantasy Award-winning editor Paula Guran, is 500+ pages of fairy tale retellings from the past three decades, from writers such as Jeff VanderMeer, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Theodora Goss, and Tanith Lee.
In her introduction to the hefty volume, Guran takes pains to inform the reader that fairy tale retellings for adult readers are thriving. I’m not sure that her insistence is really necessary, since it seems we’re living in an undeniable second age for fairy tales of all types. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have such a substantial reminder. What Beyond the Woods brings to the conversation is a primer in the contemporary fairy tale fiction that’s happening just left of the high literary sphere. « Read the rest of this entry »
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?”
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 »
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.
When 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 »
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
For 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.
For 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 »
November 14, 2014 § 3 Comments
I’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 »
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!
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 »
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!
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!
May 9, 2013 § 6 Comments
Kate Wolford is a teacher, scholar, and author/editor of Beyond the Glass Slipper: Ten Neglected Fairy Tales to Fall in Love With, now out from World Weaver Press. She also edits the online magazine Enchanted Conversation. Megan Engelhardt is the co-author of Wolves and Witches, a collection of prose and poetry fairy tale adaptations by herself and her sister, Amanda C. Davis. Wolves and Witches is also available from World Weaver Press.
crfricke: Both the act of collecting little known fairy tales and re-writing fairy tales are akin to drawing back a curtain on something—would you say that that was part of your mission in writing these books? If so, how would you define what is being revealed?
Kate Wolford: Yes, is my answer to the first question. Of the ten tales in Beyond the Glass Slipper, only “The Nixy” and “King Pig” are even moderately well known—especially when it comes to US readers. The massive domination of Disney fairy tale culture in the Americas means that even sophisticated fans of fairy tales might have a fairly narrow view of what a fairy tale is “supposed” to be. For example, people really believe that fairy tales always end in “happily ever after.” They very often don’t. What the book is meant to reveal is a wider idea of what a fairy tale can be, and that the world of fairy tales is richer and more diverse than most of us ever imagine. I also want readers to realize that fairy tale heroes and heroines often are people of questionable character. Look at the soldier in one of the stories, “The Blue Light.” That he will be as bad a king as the man he vanquishes is pretty clear. But, then again, in Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” the protagonist is a stalker, but people so seldom notice.
Megan Engelhardt: For the first question, in our case, a lot of the tales we use are fairly well known. I think for Amanda and me, the fun comes in asking the reader to look at the familiar from a different angle. I’m not sure that it’s fair to call it a mission, really, but it is definitely an interest that directed a lot of the work in Wolves and Witches. We all know what happens from the main character’s point of view, but what’s the villain thinking? What’s going on over here to the side of the main action? What happens after the curtain closes? Those are the questions that fired our imaginations, and those are the stories we tried to reveal to the reader. « Read the rest of this entry »