You may have noticed that this website and blog are outdated. Maybe you didn’t notice! But I noticed. They are very outdated. I’ve had a hectic year and am just catching my breath now. A brief update for the time being: I am thrilled/astonished to report that I have three books coming out soon: a picture book, an edited collection of myths, and a short story collection. The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair, illustrated by the phenomenal Jake Parker, will be in print in early September from Random House Children’s Books/Schwartz & Wade Books; xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths will be in print in late September from Penguin; and How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, a short story collection, is in production will be in print in 2014 from my heroes at Coffee House Press. I now teach in the spectacular desert, at the University of Arizona. And Fairy Tale Review was recently acquired by Wayne State University Press – I proudly remain editor. I’ll update this whole website soon. Or, at least, I aspire to do so . . .
August 23, 2013
November 2, 2012
This Halloween season, my brother and I continue our co-curated series of architectural fairy tales appearing in Places/Design Observer, with designs by Bernheimer Architecture for the Brothers Grimm tale “The Boy Who Set Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” The series will return again in December with three new winter tales. Be sure to click through to the 11 designs by Bernheimer Architecture with Vera Leung; they’re spectacular. The final models are especially eerie.
April 12, 2012
This is reblogged from the Fairy Tale Review website.
Three simple responses to “The Better to Entertain You With, My Dear,” published in The New York Times on March 21, 2012. While the author seems to have genuine affection for fairy tales he has encountered in film and elsewhere, he also makes broad statements roundly dismissing their relevance to the 21st century readers and viewers.
Point/Counterpoint #1. This article makes the astonishing claim that “the social realities on which the original [sic] fairy tales depend are almost incomprehensibly alien to 21st-century sensibilities.” In stark contrast to this incomprehensible statement, the NYT article called “Living Like a Billionaire, If Only for a Day” appears a mere few days later! We will leave aside in this response any discussion of the films the article purports to review: it’s the cliche fairy-tale bashing that concerns us. And the social realities of poverty, hardly alien to us today.
Point/Counterpoint #2. The NYT piece claims that in the new Hollywood versions, “Snow White is a much more can-do kind of princess than the passive heroine of yore.” Such as yore’s Albanian Snow White (hard to find in translation to English) who possibly murders her mother and sometimes two sisters as well, and is occasionally depicted living companionably with 40 dragons? So passive! Yore, like today, does not have one Snow White, but a diverse spectrum of heroes shaped by a diverse spectrum of authors and artists. Here is a more thoughtful article about another 21st century “Snow White,” a ballet with costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier.
Point/Counterpoint #3: The NYT article states that “The world from which fairy tales and folk tales emerged has largely vanished, and although it pleases us to think of these stark, simple, fantastic narratives as timeless, they aren’t. ” This is puzzling because fairy tales, as far as we know, “emerged” from planet earth, which has not vanished . . . yet. The old tales do reflect a world far more astonished and grateful for biodiversity, we think. Yet that is not what Rafferty means; he means their stark themes are outdated. As long as child abandonment, extreme poverty, racism, genocide, famine, and all manner of senseless violence remain in this world, we will have fairy tales. Many (not all) offer radical solutions to very real problems. Others offer different consolations through their poetics.
If the current movies reviewed in this article lack aesthetic and narrative force for the reviewer, why blame fairy tales? At the least, it’s an illogical rhetorical gesture. We think Rafferty is a fairy-tale friend. And we would love to see reviewers cease using cliches about fairy tales. It is easy to do. There are many wonderful and accessible books on their history, including Maria Tatar’s The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Jack Zipes’ newest, The Irresistible Fairy Tale, and it is fun to brush up on the old fairy tales too, with many astonishing variants easily found on Heidi Anne Heiner’s fairy-tale site, in Tatar’s Grimm Reader and Zora Neale Hurston’s Every Tongue Got To Confess (not to mention hundreds of other collections – which Fairy Tale Review would be thrilled to receive as gifts, hint hint).
In all seriousness, we are puzzled by the tone of condescension to readers (and to the reporter himself) when this article asserts that, while “it pleases us” to think fairy tales are “timeless,” fairy tales are utterly irrelevant now. We regret that the esteemed NYT takes such a classist and pedagogical tone in an article that fuels disparagement of fairy tales, a minoritarian art form of spectacular complexity and diverse expression.
“We are the folk,” as folklorist Alan Dundes once said.
Here at Fairy Tale Review we are not pleased by the timelessness of human brutality still rampant today, though we are pleased by the fraught, complex, poetic mode of expression called fairy tales, still living today. As long as violence, poverty, abuses of power, and greed live in this world, fairy tales likely won’t vanish. It is no coincidence that Anne Frank wrote tales up in that Secret Annex. We understand, of course, that Rafferty’s misunderstanding–however unintended–is not his alone, and we are not trying to make an example of him personally; many cultural entities of influence have encouraged this exact view that fairy tales as a class represent an inferior form, and content, of expression.
Upon closer inspection of fairy tales from 2,000 years ago to today, or merely a few engaging books about their strange history, would the author of this article really agree that we live in a world where “fairy tales” are so outdated? It would not take much work to dismiss that fallacy, really. One need only compare a version of the Appalachian tale “Babes in the Woods” with the “stark, simple, fantastic” story below, circa 21st century. What makes this story relevant now? The children’s survival: a radical act. “The folktale is real,” said Italo Calvino. Here, at Fairy Tale Review, we agree.
In early 2012, Places/Design Observer published a three-part architectural fairy-tale series I produced along with my brother, Andrew Bernheimer (of Bernheimer Architecture and Director, MArch at Parsons). Imagine our pleasure when the series recently received an AIANY Award of Merit in the “Unbuilt” category! For the series, works on paper based on fairy-tale houses were produced by Bernheimer Architecture (Baba Yaga’s hut), LevenBetts with Bret Quagliara (Jack’s beanstalk), and structural engineers Guy Nordenson and Associates (Rapunzel’s tower). Pretty fun to see the other AIANY Unbuilt category award winners’ gorgeous designs for waterfront developments, research centers, and detention centers alongside . . . fairy-tale dwellings, like the bottom of a beanstalk. The series generated such positive, diverse, and thoughtful responses I wanted to share a handful of them here: Maria Popova’s wonderful site, Brain Pickings (also posted by The Atlantic), i09, Geek in Heels, Modern Steel Construction, and Architizer. Enthusiasm has been so high for this project that we have all decided to produce more of them; stay tuned around Halloween for another three-part installment on Places/Design Observer my brother and I are gathering now, thanks to a generous grant from Parsons, and again around the winter holidays for a third three-part installment. When will it stop? Nobody knows. We’re obsessed. [FYI to anyone who stumbles across this post, and is curious, Andrew Bernheimer is my brother, not my husband, though some have identified us as married, and once in a "mysterious relationship." I love that! That we are depicted sometimes as brother and sister, sometimes as husband and wife, and sometimes as "mysterious," depending on the version, is fairy-tale appropriate--characters change roles from story to story. But more to the point it's kind of hip in a White Stripes sort of way. So maybe we should go with the mystery.]
My most recent appearance at the LSU Museum of Art (April 1, 2012) was such a pleasure. It was especially moving to see WordRiot, Baton Rouge’s high school spoken-word poets, performing their fairy-tale poems in an upstairs gallery overlooking the river, surrounded by fabulist art, including work by Kelli Scott Kellye. I am looking forward to these forthcoming events in 2012 . . .
May 12, 7 p.m.
Casa Libre en la Solana, Tucson AZ
Short Prose Forms: A Reading and Book Signing with Rebecca Brown and Kate Bernheimer
June 12, 12:30 p.m.
Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco, CA
“Lit and Lunch” on Translating Fairy Tales, Kate Bernheimer, Ilya Kaminsky, and Maria Tatar
June 12, Evening
Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco, CA
Two Voices Reading Series: A Night of Fairy Tales, billed as “a special evening of wild, wicked, and scary tales,” Kate Bernheimer with Ilya Kaminsky and Maria Tatar
September 19 – 23
Cork International Short Story Festival, Cork, Ireland
Workshop: Writing Contemporary Fairy Tales with Kate Bernheimer
Reading from My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me with Ilya Kaminsky
October 11 – 14
Sirens: Women in Fantasy Conference
Guests of Honor: Kate Bernheimer, Nalo Hopkinson, Malinda Lo (really thrilled to be in such incredible company and looking forward to meeting everyone there)
More to come . . .
September 9, 2011
More to be added, and I’m sure I’m leaving something off by mistake! But I’ve been asked to post these, so here they are so far. Would that I could go everywhere I am asked to go—if only I had a robot double?
Antigone Books, Tucson, AZ Reading with Lydia Millet, our stories from Fantastic Women (Tin House Books)
Afternoon of Fairy Tales, University of Washington in Seattle
Reading at University of Washington in Bothell
October 24 – October 27
Minneapolis, MN (events TBA)
Reading with Dorianne Laux sponsored by the Poetry Translation Club at San Diego State University
Fairy-Tale Workshop for the Poetry Translation Club at SDSU
February 3 – 5
Grimm Legacies, Harvard University, Cambridge MA
Reading for the MFA Program for Poets & Writers, University of Massachusetts
Lake Forest Literary Festival
March 1 – March 3
AWP, Chicago IL
Fairy-Tale Event, Louisiana State University
Sponsored by the Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco
Two Voices Reading Series (with Maria Tatar and Ilya Kaminsky!)
August 8, 2011
Some really wonderful news: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (Penguin 2010) has just been named a nominee for the World Fantasy Award. The other nominees are eclectic and interesting and wonderful. Such an honor, such a surprise. I can hardly believe it! This book was such a labor of love for fairy tales, and it’s just very exiting to see fairy tales appear on the ballot for such an incredible award. What a gift.
The full list is available here http://www.worldfantasy.org/awards/
And I paste it below. Congratulations, fellow nominees!
Winners will be announced at this year’s World Fantasy Convention, to be held October 27-30, in San Diego CA. I wonder if anyone wants to send me to it—hint, hint?
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (Jacana South Africa; Angry Robot)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
The Silent Land, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc; Harper Voyager UK)
Redemption In Indigo, Karen Lord (Small Beer)
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
Bone and Jewel Creatures, Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean)
The Broken Man, Michael Byers (PS)
“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon”, Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All-New Tales)
The Thief of Broken Toys, Tim Lebbon (ChiZine Publications)
“The Mystery Knight”, George R.R. Martin (Warriors)
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer 2010)
Best Short Fiction
“Beautiful Men” , Christopher Fowler (Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts)
“Booth’s Ghost”, Karen Joy Fowler (What I Didn’t See and Other Stories)
“Ponies”, Kij Johnson (Tor.com 11/17/10)
“Fossil-Figures”, Joyce Carol Oates (Stories: All-New Tales)
“Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us”, Mercurio D. Rivera (Black Static 8-9/10)
The Way of the Wizard, John Joseph Adams, ed. (Prime)
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, Kate Bernheimer, ed. (with Carmen Gimenez Smith) (Penguin)
Haunted Legends, Ellen Datlow & Nick Mamatas, eds. (Tor)
Stories: All-New Tales, Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio, eds. (Morrow; Headline Review)
Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, S.T. Joshi, ed. (PS)
Swords & Dark Magic, Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders, eds. (Eos)
What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler (Small Beer)
The Ammonite Violin & Others, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean)
Holiday, M. Rickert (Golden Gryphon)
Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter (Tartarus)
The Third Bear, Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)
Kinuko Y. Craft
Richard A. Kirk
Special Award, Professional
John Joseph Adams, for editing and anthologies
Lou Anders, for editing at Pyr
Marc Gascoigne, for Angry Robot
Stéphane Marsan & Alain Névant, for Bragelonne
Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi, for ChiZine Publications
Special Award, Non-Professional
Stephen Jones, Michael Marshall Smith, & Amanda Foubister, for Brighton Shock!: The Souvenir Book Of The World Horror Convention 2010
Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press
Matthew Kressel, for Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press
Charles Tan, for Bibliophile Stalker
Lavie Tidhar, for The World SF Blog
Also, here’s a little interview I did for Tin House upon publication, recently, of their very neat anthology Fantastic Women. So nice to be in there. I was asked to define fantastic writing for it so, of course, I said that “Fantastic writing has the affect of being fantastic.”
May 15, 2011
Kevin Brockmeier, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Timothy Schaffert, Maria Tatar and I discuss fairy tales for the Center for Fiction’s new magazine edited by author Dawn Raffel, The Literarian. This vibrant issue also includes work by Rick Moody, Ann Hood, Tiny May Hall, and others.
In the fairy-tale piece, beautifully accompanied by art by Nicoletta Ceccoli, you’ll find mention of Nabokov, George MacDonald’s The Light Princess, Disney’s Snow White, and Horace McCoy’s brilliant novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They. And Legoland! Fairy tales allow such great lines of flight.
From the conversation,
“A few weeks ago I was slowly floating along Fairy Tale Brook, the calmest, sleepiest ride at Legoland: A plastic boat winds through a miniature forest populated by huge animatronic versions of Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin, built entirely out of Lego. They were pretty strange. But this forest was full of the most beautiful mushrooms! Real ones. All different kinds and colors. They seemed to have sprung up by accident there in the theme park.”
–Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
May 10, 2011
Timothy Schaffert, author of the wonderful novel The Coffins of Little Hope, and guest editor of The Brown Issue of Fairy Tale Review, lovingly mentions The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold, and The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold here, in a post about forthcoming & in-progress books by Fairy Tale Review contributors and, er, its editor, me.
April 15, 2011
The Shirley Jackson Awards nominees have been announced, and I’m delighted that My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (Penguin, 2010) is on the list. The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented at Readercon 22, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts (so near where I grew up!). Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors, so this feels pretty special.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with the wonderful writer Alissa Nutting, whose first story collection (Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls) was issued this year, selected by Ben Marcus for the Starcherone Prize.
Monkey Bicycle asked her, “As readers, I believe we always want to know what the authors we love are reading – so, what books have you been digging lately, loving perhaps?” Here is her lovely answer.
Kate Bernheimer’s newest novel The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, just out from FC2. It is the third and final novel of an incredible trilogy (The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold), but each book stands alone (once you read them, you will understand how heartbreakingly/wonderfully true this sentence is, oh how each stands alone!! Deliciously, woefully alone). “Stands alone” is very much like something Lucy would say to euphemistically describe a brutal death (He stands alone now) or a victim of a stabbing (Afterword she stood alone in the corner ). Alone Lucy might be my favorite of the three. The wrenching comic disconnect between the tragedy of her experiences and the nonchalance of her unmoved, subjective description of them is incredible. It is brutally funny, and affectingly sad as only the best art can be. You’ll love it immediately. It lends itself to compulsive rereading. It’s like a bruise you can’t help but keep touching. There’s something very reassuring in the way that it hurts.
[Thank you, Alissa Nutting. KB]
April 4, 2011
June 19 – June 25
Juniper Summer Writing Institute
I am teaching a session called Tiny Tales in which each writer will produce one complete, miniature, stylized story, with special attention to the domestic mise-en-scene. Can’t wait to spend some time in beautiful Amherst, MA. Reading with Dara Wier!
June 12 – June 17
Nebraska Summer Writers Conference
I’m teaching a workshop called Everyday Magic. There may still be space. There are other workshops taught by Maud Casey, Daniel Handler–truly a wonderful line up! Readings every night, and so forth.
Thursday, April 7, 6-7 p.m.
Chicago Public Library/Chicago Humanities Festival, Evening of Modern Fairy Tales
Reading and discussion with Lydia Millet
(In conjunction with the One Book, One Chicago program, which is celebrating Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere this year)
Friday, April 8
Lecture on Fairy Tales
University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
June 12 – June 17
Nebraska Summer Writers Conference
Enrollment is now open for my weeklong workshop, “Everyday Magic,” in which we will discuss fairy-tale techniques, and write fairy tales. This year’s conference, put together by novelist Timothy Schaffert, looks amazing.
June 19 – June 25
Juniper Summer Writing Institute
I will be teaching a workshop in which we will write fairy tales in the form of “miniature domestic myths,” and giving a reading at this lovely gathering at UMass, run by poet Lisa Olstein in the fairy-tale town of Amherst, MA.
Lisa Guidarini (Member, National Book Critics Circle; heroic librarian; and book reviewer) emerged as an early supporter of Horse, Flower, Bird and recently contacted me. She asked me lovely questions about the literary Fairy-Tale Revival I have been working on for many years. I am grateful for her kindness to the book, to fairy tales and to my longstanding fascination with the color pink which began with a pink shag rug in childhood and Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book.
An excerpt of her thoughtful review:
Kate Bernheimer’s collection Horse, Flower, Bird contains eight fairy tales featuring women. In each the female protagonist is ultimately left alone, marginalized or contained in some way. A few choose isolation, and selective mutism, drawing into themselves as a means of self-preservation. The cages these characters choose are real, and often of their own making. Which isn’t to say there is no attempt to find happiness, but, rather, circumstances assume the same larger-than-life control that exists in fairy tales geared toward children . . . I hope readers who don’t consider fairy tales to be normal reading fare will consider giving this collection a try. You just may be surprised how well you enjoy them.
A chapter from The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, recently published, has been made into a comic (“The Ladies’ Room,” which is based on a Chinese fairy tale). I love seeing the writing like this and posted it, and wrote about the influence of comics on my work, here.
March 6, 2011
Katy Waldman of Slate’s Doublex.com selected My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me as “Book of the Week” late last month. I am so glad she writes that the editorship “aspires to a kind of lawlessness” and succeeds because the stories are “gorgeously stitched.” It is such a nice gift, when a reviewer praises the exact effect you spent years working toward on a book. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
Whether you’re secretly horrified to learn how many taboos have been packaged between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” or whether you’re the kind of adult who will happily snatch any chance to revisit that terrifying, enchanted terrain, you‘ll be bewitched by the new anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. The 40 authors that Kate Bernheimer has gathered to rewrite and modernize classic fairy tales are experts at collating darkness and wonder.
Honored that Horse, Flower, Bird is reviewed in Dalkey Archive’s Review of Contemporary Fiction (and, appropriately, in “The Failure Issue”). Here is an excerpt from the review:
In “A Star Wars Tale,” two sisters enact the age-old battle between good and evil in modern masks as “the Princess Leia sister” is confined in a pantry by “the Darth Vader sister” and threatened with torture. With only two sisters, the black hat must also play the hero, and so the “Luke Skywalker sister often forgot whether to be tender or mean, having to juggle so many roles.” It’s a finely written story indeed that can simultaneously serve as a comic family scene and hint at the corrupting effects of the ongoing war on terror, and it’s a fine writer who can demonstrate so perfectly how a primal form maintains currency in any era.
March 5, 2011
Room 220 of New Orleans ran this very, very nice article before my reading at The Columns last week. A very appropriate setting for a fairy-tale reading; “Pretty Baby” was filmed there–definitely a fairy-tale film. I’ve never seen anyone take note of the fact that obviously, the photographer, Belloc, is named after the French author Hilaire Belloc of the incredible Cautionary Tales for Children. From a Belloc verse: “And when your prayers complete the day/Darling, your little tiny hands/Were also made, I think, to pray/For men that lose their fairylands.”
What a great city, what a great audience, what a lovely hotel. The 1718 Reading Series is jointly sponsored by Loyola, UNO, and Tulane, and I urge those of you who live in New Orleans to support it however you can.
February 23, 2011
Thanks to the Victoria Advocate for the illustration accompanying their article about my reading at UHV last week. The image definitely has elevated me in my daughter’s opinion! (“Can you really fly?”)
December 30, 2010
A heartfelt year-end thank you to the many readers who showed incredible support for fairy tales by taking note of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me and Horse, Flower, Bird in 2010, along with other new fairy-tale titles.
With your support, fairy tales will continue to flourish as a glittering art form into the 21st century. I will work on updating this news page in early 2011, but in the meantime, here are some new links, for which I am so grateful.
So nice to be mentioned in a round-up by NYRB Classics (a heroic imprint) of 2010 Staff Favorites
Storyville, a clever app for the iPhone and iPad, publishes “Whitework”
Brain Pickings “picks” My Mother She Killed Me!
The Tucson Weekly lavishly praises area contributors to My Mother She Killed Me
The Paris Review shows some fairy-tale love!
The Globe and Mail publishes a very thorough and engaging review of My Mother She Killed Me
January Magazine chooses Horse, Flower, Bird as a Best Book of 2010.
The Lobster and Canary lovingly takes note of Horse, Flower, Bird and its “minatory” nature. In 2011, I want to use the word minatory more often–it’s one of my favorite words.
Contrary Magazine publishes a thoughtful, moving review of Horse, Flower, Bird and implores readers to “come back to fairy tales.”
Lovely writer and faithful BookCourt bookseller Emma Straub praises My Mother She Killed Me
Author Jeff Vandermeer recommends Horse, Flower, Bird to readers on the Amazon Omnivoracious blog, as a gift for the “imaginative, the curious, and the weird”–definitely endlessly nicer to be called weird by the likes of Jeff Vandermeer than by junior high “friends”!
Sweetly, Horse, Flower, Bird made it onto the New Pages’ Book Review Editor Gina Meyer’s personal Year-End List with my own favorite 2010 book, Patti Smith’s fairy-tale-like memoir Just Kids.
There are many more to thank, and more news will be posted in time. For now, may your early 2011 be filled with wonder.
November 19, 2010
From Maria Tatar’s elegant fairy-tale blog, Breezes from Wonderland:
Laura Miller weighs in on Salon.com about the NBA’s exlusion of retellings of folk-tales, myths, and fairy-tales. I liked her illustration but I think Maxfield Parrish’s princess contemplating a frog works even better to alert readers to her subject. Kate Bernheimer and I are hoping that the NBA Committee will respond to our petition soon.
Bernheimer and Tatar point out that the NBA rules don’t exclude “retellings of the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays,” or, for that matter, retellings of any other literary form. The singling out of fairy and folk tales belies a long-standing uneasiness with the form, its vaguely disreputable air. The fairy tale plays havoc with the premium we moderns place on originality.
November 10, 2010
It was such a pleasure spending time in the studio talking to Lynn Neary and Neil LaBute about fairy tales. Our segment aired on November 7, and is available here. I can’t help but admit to loving the teaser some NPR-affiliates are using: “Kate Bernheimer is a fairy-tale detective on the lookout for bread crumbs from old stories in everything she reads.”
October 30, 2010
I am so honored to be interviewed about Horse, Flower, Bird by critic Eryn Loeb here. The headline, “Champion of The Fairy Tale,” is really lovely indeed. It’s such an honor to serve up fairy tales, to help preserve them.
It was quite a challenge to review a 600+ page book about a man who has written thousands of pages of fiction I so admire in 700 words, but I loved doing it for Roald Dahl nevertheless here. Something I couldn’t fit into the word count, but which readers might want to know: one of Dahl’s most celebrated grown-up literary works, the horror story “Pig,” is clearly a retelling of “How Children Played Butcher with One Another,” one of the gruesome fairy tales retold, more than a 100 years earlier, by the Brothers Grimm. Dahl devoured fairy tales as a young reader. You can find “How Children Played Butcher with One Another” and other gruesome and beautifully translated traditional fairy tales in The Grimm Reader by Maria Tatar. Dahl’s “Pig” is a fascinating retelling of a fascinating retelling: a great example of how, through fairy tales, the old becomes new and new becomes old, collapsing time into storybook beauty and horror.
October 29, 2010
I love the series of questions that the Book Brahmin interview poses to writers.
October 24, 2010
To the National Book Foundation,
We write as strong supporters of all that the National Book Foundation does for American letters. But we are also puzzled about one point in the eligibility guidelines for the prestigious National Book Award. Currently the Foundation’s website states that “collections and/or retellings of folk-tales, myths, and fairy-tales are not eligible,” an exclusion that applies to the categories of both Fiction (for adults) and Young People’s Literature. Yet this body of literature is arguably one of the greatest literary influences on a vast number of contemporary American writers. Might the National Book Foundation reconsider this point in its guidelines?
Under the guidelines as stated above, John Updike’s 1964 National Book Award winner, the novel Centaur, would actually have been ineligible as it retells multiple classical myths. There are other examples of retellings among the wonderful books you have honored. In fact, we believe that the National Book Foundation already recognizes and embraces the literary value of retellings. Removing the exclusion would simply more accurately represent the Foundation’s actual practice, which represents a welcome appreciation of this iconic literary art form. Also, it seems that the National Book Foundation intends to welcome formal diversity; as such, there is no exclusion for “retellings of the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays.”
In changing its guidelines the National Book Foundation will take the opportunity to help preserve the enduring tradition of fairy tales for future generations of readers. While scholars cannot always trace fairy tales to single sources, new versions of these magical narratives are indeed literary works in their own right. In turn these newer versions help bring attention to a very old and diverse body of work, now fading from view. To acknowledge the value of fairy tales, folk tales and myths as they are appropriated, adapted, revised, fractured, and retold seems in line with the National Book Foundation’s overall mission.
In sum, we would be delighted to see the National Book Foundation change its National Book Award guidelines to allow retellings of fairy tales, folk tales, and myths. We would be glad to consult with you more on this matter, and truly appreciate your consideration of this request. We look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts.
John L. Loeb Professor of Folklore Mythology and Germanic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University
Author, Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and The Annotated Brothers Grimm
Writer in Residence & Associate Professor, University of Louisiana in Lafayette
Author, Horse, Flower, Bird; editor, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales; and founder and editor, Fairy Tale Review
A few ways to join in the cause: ‘like’ the Facebook page called “Petition to the National Book Foundation”; leave a comment here saying you support the petition; or reach us directly by writing to fairytaleappeal [at] gmail.com
October 8, 2010
The New Yorker‘s book blog The Book Bench beautifully, wonderfully recommends My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me here.
October 5, 2010
Rachel Phipps of Venus Zine has written a lovely review of Horse, Flower, Bird saying “the entire collection amounts to a beautiful little book of fairy tales meant for grown-ups.” I especially love her closing, as these are some of my favorite writers and makes the book sounds like a magical seance: ”Horse, Flower, Bird is what I think might happen if Emily Dickinson, Hans Christian Anderson, and Emily Bronte all set out to write a bunch of fairy tales together. And it actually works beautifully.”
September 15, 2010
The heroic David Gutowski of Largehearted Boy was kind enough to include me in his Book Notes series. You can find the play list I wrote for Horse, Flower, Bird here.
September 13, 2010
Around a year ago, I was so happy to be invited to write the foreword to a collection of Nicoletta Ceccoli’s incredible art in a book called Beautiful Nightmares. The book is now in print and is it ever gorgeous! You can view sample pages, including my foreword in French and in English, here. Nicoletta Ceccoli illustrated my first children’s book, The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum. (When I first saw the artwork she had done for that book, I nearly passed out from bliss.) I wrote my foreword as an embellished collage of Nicoletta’s own words from interviews she has done over the years with art magazines along with some imagery from a beautiful, pink-hued photograph she sent me of objects that inspire her in her studio. It is an homage to her work. Though we never have met, we continue to exchange emails about art and loneliness and stories. One of my dreams is to meet her in Italy someday, and to collaborate with her again. You can link to buy Beautiful Nightmares here. It is published as part of the cool Art Pop project Venusdea, established by the incredibly talented artist Barbara Canepa (Sky Doll).
September 7, 2010
Baltimore City Paper says of Horse, Flower, Bird: ”By taking up residence in the main female characters’ hearts and souls and by looking out from their eyes, these stories give others a glimpse of not just what she sees of what’s taken place, but what she thinks of it all . . . the stories in Horse, Flower, Bird are melancholy—as are Rikki Ducornet’s accompanying illustrations—but also as bright and sprightly as a little caged bird.” Full review here.
August 22, 2010
Wednesday, December 1
8:00 p.m., Poetry Center/University of Arizona Prose Series
The Contemporary Fairy Tale: A Reading and Discussion along with Kathryn Davis, Lydia Millet, and Joy Williams
Friday, December 3
8:00 p.m. Poetry Center/Alumni Series
University of Arizona
Reading with poet Joshua Marie Wilkinson