Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “folk tales”

pyrajane’s review #28: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Do you ever love a book so much you want to hug it?  This is a Hug It Book.  The kind of book you want to be real because you want to visit the characters and the town and go to the shops and eat the food.  It’s a new favorite.

It’s impossible to sum up in a teaser review why this one made me so happy, so pretty please head on over and read the whole thing.

pyrajane’s #CBR4 review #13: The Book of Flying by Keith Miller

The writing in this book is beautiful.  More than beautiful.  It’s the kind of book where you need to pause and reread so you can hear the words a second time.  There were parts I needed to say out loud because the phrasing was so good.  It became a tactile experience for me – the cadence paired with alliteration and consonance and assonance created a flow and I needed to feel the words in my mouth.  It was gorgeous poetry in prose form and even as I was pulled into the story I still needed to slow down to enjoy and marvel at the writing.

Read my entire review and why I loved this book so much over on my blog.  And if you’re even a little bit into folklore, pick it up.  It’s amazing.

Kinda Fancy’s #CBR4 Review #03: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: 40 New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me is a collection of stories inspired by classic fairy tales written by a wide array of contemporary authors.

The title of the collection is a phrase borrowed from the Grimm’s Tale of the Juniper Tree, reinvented in this collection in Alissa Nutting’s story, The Brother and the Bird.  It’s an excellent title as it calls to mind so many of the dark and complicated threads that make up the fairy tales we all know so well: family, betrayal, murder, violence, and complicity.

The stories within the collection, each “riffing” on some extant bit of folklore, explore the marrow and whimsy of the genre with varying degrees of success.

Most of the writers deal in creative retellings or explorations of familiar themes, but a few seem to delight in simply wallowing in the grotesque, describing evocative but disconnected images and happenings in a truly esoteric and brutal phantasmagoria.  These few did nothing for me.

I like the shit, blood, and viscera in my fairy tales to be a menacing undercurrent that bubbles over and bursts vividly to the surface of the narrative from time to time, not a stagnant pool that the author feels compelled to drown me in.

Still, there are instances of the sublime in the collection that make it well worth picking up.

In the previously mentioned, The Brother and the Bird, Alissa Nutting creates one of the most terrifying step-mother’s you are ever likely to find in a genre that is rife with them.  When she describes the woman, perpetually clad in hairnets and bright yellow cleaning gloves, you can practically see and smell a toxic curl of cleaning poisons hissing off of the page.

I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s story, Orange very much.  It is a tale of self tanning gone fantastically wrong and it is told cleverly and exclusively through the answers to unheard questions in a government interrogation.  I’m not always a fan of Gaiman, but I found this to be delightfully funny and blessedly short in a collection of heavy and lengthy tales.

The real stand out in the collection for me was Aimee Bender’s The Color Master.  It is an exploration of the doings of some unseen side characters in the classic French tale, Donkeyskin.  The entire thing is so gorgeous and lyrical, I won’t embarrass myself by trying to describe it any more than that.

I’ve enjoyed my near constant immersion in fairy tales these past few months, but I am definitely ready for something longer and with a steadier plot.


Kinda Fancy’s #CBR4 Review #02: Czechoslovak Fairy Tales by Parker Fillmore and Jan Matulka

Fairy tales interest me greatly.  They are alluring in their apparent simplicity and inherent power.  They are visceral, dark, violent, and often funny.  Within their confines, both terrible and magical things are possible.  Sometimes punishment is just, sometimes it is arbitrary.  Though the main character may be rewarded with good fortune in the end, they will not arrive there without suffering unheard of horrors first.

Amazon has many free kindle collections of folk and fairy tales organized by culture of origin.  Since I have some Czechoslovakian heritage, I decided that this particular collection would be a good place to jump in.  There are only fifteen stories in this collection, so it’s an easy read.  If you’re a fan of fairy tales in their purest form, where really crazy shit happens for no apparent reason and there’s rarely a moral or a point at the end, then you should enjoy this book.  It might not hold you rapt for hours at a time, but I enjoyed reading a story or two before bed in rotation with more in depth reading.  Did I mention it’s free?

Recurring themes in these stories include the virtue of hard work, the inability of royalty to accomplish anything without the special help of their subjects, and magical self-multiplying gold coins.

Of course, one of the most satisfying parts of reading fairy tales is seeing the wicked get their just deserts.  In this regard, these stories don’t disappoint.  In one tale, the devil himself comes up to earth to drag a wicked mother and daughter screaming into hell, but my favorite grisly end of a villain appears in the tale called, “Rattle-Rattle-Rattle and Chink-Chink-Chink.”

In the story, we get the familiar motif of a beggar who, after being treated well or poorly, is revealed to be a powerful being.  Usually, the kindly host or hostess is rewarded with riches or salvation, while those who treated the stranger poorly are left to live in squalor.

The inhospitable cottage dweller, Dorla, is not so lucky in this tale:

Then Dorla was very frightened and she hid in the corner.  Long Beard broke open the door and he caught Dorla and he shook her out of her skin.  It served her right, too, for she was a wicked, spiteful girl and she had never been kind to anybody in her life.

Long Beard left her bones in a heap on the floor, and he hung her skin on the nail at the back of the door.  Then he put her grinning skull in the window.

I’d love to see the Disney version.

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