Category Archives: Fairy Tales

The Bloody Chamber, Wise Children, Fireworks (Everyman’s Library Contemporary Classics) by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber Title: The Bloody Chamber, Wise Children, Fireworks
Author: Angela Carter
Publisher: Everyman’s Library Contemporary Classics
ISBN: 978-1101907993
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fairy Tales
Pages: 504
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Well, if you ask me, Angela Carter was a movement in herself. I have read most of her books and there isn’t a single one which I haven’t been enthralled by or thought about its layers, once done with it. Also, might I add that while most people think (and rightly so) that “The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories” is a very raw and grisly take on fairy tales, it is much more than that.  Carter’s stories are underlined or rather soaked in eroticism and subverts their so-called “intended message”. At the same time, they entertain, enthrall and amuse.

It was somewhere in the last year of college that I started reading Carter. As most would, I started with “The Bloody Chamber” and finished it in one sitting through one night. Her sense of fabulism had got me hooked to whatever she had to say. To my mind, that mixed with the feminist tone, enhanced every single word and sentence, lending it the much-needed sense of imagination and force. Perhaps, it was also the age when I first read her that changed me as a person and kept doing so everytime I would go back to her works, as I grew older.

“The Bloody Chamber” is a collection of stories that isn’t an adaptation of fairy tales. They are just revisitations. The world is of Carter’s – where young girls are more aware of themselves sexually and emotionally, where beasts can be suitors, mothers and pets could be saviours and blood flows endlessly. If nudity, sex, violence, necrophilia, and murder upset you easily, then perhaps this collection of stories isn’t for you. You wouldn’t want to see your beloved fairy tale characters (or a semblance to them) being so aware and liberal about who they are and what they stand for.

Now to the next book in this collection: Wise Children. “Wise Children” is perhaps the onyl Carter which I read right now for the first time. I was almost cursing myself for waiting for all this time before reading it. This book isn’t strange as much as it is farcial, humorous and engaging. The signature elements of fabulism, magic realism (hate the word but shall use it) and this entwined with the ongoings of two families, make “Wise Children” for a splendid read. It is theatrical and nostalgic in its scope. The narrative voice of a 75-year-old former song and dance girl, is perfect. The larger than life characters of theatre and film is what Carter captures with such wit and scope, that it is enough to engulf you. Before I forget, the multiple Shakespearean references and plot devices used (since Dora and Nora Chance are Shakespearean actors) only enhance the humour and irony of the book.

“Wise Children” is almost a tribute to the Bard, both in characterization and its plot. The writing is wry, intelligent and fantastically told. Even if you do not get the Shakespearean references, it is quite alright. You will enjoy the book nonetheless.

“Fireworks” was Carter’s first collection of short stories. Published in 1974 (four years prior to The Bloody Chamber), it was subtitled, “Nine Profane Pieces”. I love how Carter doesn’t mean to titilate or scandalize and yet people feel that way when they read her. When all she was doing through her stories, was asserting her identity, womanhood, and the claiming of sex (as it would seem).

This collection of stories have her constant themes – domination and transformation, also the untimely loss of innocence (traces of this would also be seen in The Bloody Chamber and other stories) and entering the dark territory of emotions – mainly lust, and horror of the body and the mind. Carter never shied from exploring themes and pushing the envelope so to say. To my mind, she was one of the foremost women writers who captured the mind of a woman and merged it with the surreal and fantastical, almost leading the way for other writers.

The stories of “Fireworks” are all about the darkness within and somehow Carter’s writing makes it playful, non-linear and intriguing. I often found myself yet again wanting to be a part of the worlds she creates.

Angela Carter’s writing has perpetually been fascinating, not treating gender as anything but a social construct and love mixed with a lot of comedy. Her characters are undecided,   forever changing their minds, and strangely know what they want. The richness of her imagination was always evident in what she wrote and all I can say is read more of her. Her essays, short stories, novels and journalistic pieces. Read them all. She is a treasure worth admiring.

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster

Title: The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
Author: Mallory Ortberg
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-1250113429
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Fairy Tales were never meant for children, I suppose. Over the years, and along the way, they became for children. No wonder there are so many retellings and translations of the true fairy tales from different regions of the world, in order to maintain them for what they were: sinister. “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” by Mallory Ortberg is one such book of dark and playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales, each one told with a twist of feminism, gender fluidity (at least from what I could make out for some of them) and more.

This is not a parody on fairy tales. This is what I thought when I picked it up but it turned out to be way ahead and progressive than that. Mallory not only understands these fairy tales in great detail and with an amazing insight, but she also is aware that cultures, time, and tellers shape the story and hence her stories do not at any time seem jaded. Moreover, her stories seem more real, given the times we live in and rightly so. Again, might I add: not meant for children.

I cannot even discuss these stories without giving away anything, so I will not. What I will say though is that “A Thankless Child” is one story that has stuck in my mind (a retelling of Cinderella if you please) and a very strange one at that. What I loved is that Ortberg is not here to shock you.

The stories are to break stereotypes, to get away from the prejudice and bias we create and above all to be able to think and feel the way you want to. There is also a sense of humour which is evident in the retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. I could go on and on about this one, but all I must say is that you just have to read this collection of stories.

365 Short Stories: Day 2: The Snow Child by Angela Carter

the-bloody-chamber-and-other-stories-by-angela-carter

Today’s story was “The Snow Child” by Angela Carter. Taken from the collection “The Bloody Chamber and Other stories”, this is a retelling of “Snow White” and explores aspects of male power, desire and horror.

I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbed I was on reading it, but the craft of Ms. Carter is something else. In fewer than 500 words she manages to make you feel the eroticism of the Count, the envy of the Countess and the innocence of the Snow Child which cannot last for long.

There is the element of surprise, shock and horror – all blend in beautifully in today’s story. A must read, if you ask me.

Here is the link to it: https://biblioklept.org/2013/06/21/the-snow-child-angela-carter/

Daydreams of Angels: Stories by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill Title: Daydreams of Angels: Stories Author: Heather O’Neill
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374280420
Genre: Short Stories, Literary
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Stories, stories and more stories is what should also majorly be a part of life. What else is there to life but that? “Daydreams of Angels” was my seventh read this year and as the other reads, this one also did not disappoint. Keeping my tradition of fairy tales and the surreal and sublime, this one followed close on the heels of “A Wild Swan and other tales”.

This is a weird bunch of short stories – of angels, monsters, of animals and children – just that they aren’t set in the age old world but in the world where we live and are a part of us all. The stories are brilliantly thought of and written. I remember talking about “Sting like a bee” which was extremely surreal and hit the spot.

Most stories are just like that – they manage to engulf you and take you to another world. The other thing that I felt or did not feel was that these stories were too childish or whimsical for me as an adult. In fact, most of them make a lot of pertinent points under the layers of being just stories. O’Neill’s strength is in her declarative sentences – she just announces what is happening and is not afraid of showing all her cards to the readers. To a very large extent, this kind of writing always works with me.

There is a story of Pooh Bear writing an apology letter to Piglet, who has been kidnapped. Then there is the tale of Violet who escapes her stepfather who lusts after her in “The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World” and she also thinks it is sad when you fall in love with someone. This is so much like Great Expectations minus the stepfather.

Some of the metaphors and images in this book are completely heartbreaking. As a reader, I could not get more of them and just wanted to re-read some of the stories. In my opinion, if a book manages to do that, then the author has just hit the nail on the head with her narrative and style.

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A Wild Swan and other Tales by Michael Cunningham

A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham Title: A Wild Swan and other Tales
Author: Michael Cunningham
Illustrator: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374290252
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories, Fairy Tales
Pages: 140
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I think it is extremely difficult to take age-old fairy tales and to turn them to something new. To give them new life, if you would like to call it that. I am also not a believer of taking these fairy tales and giving them a new voice or shape, however when it is done by Michael Cunningham (whose traces we have seen in The Snow Queen), then it is a different matter altogether. Then you know that reading the collection of tales will be nothing short of a surreal experience. The book that I am talking about is “A Wild Swan and other Tales”.

This is one of those books that just happen to readers and there is no noise made around it. It is almost subliminal in every single way – even marketing if you could say that. The book in all has 11 tales and each of them tells you what the original tales forgot to tell or missed out deliberately. I love the spin or the touch these tales have got. Cunningham’s genius but obviously is in the power of telling stories and for me that stood out page by page, story by story.

My favourite stories are “A Wild Swan”, “Jacked” (on Jack and the Beanstalk), “Crazy Old Lady” (based on Hansel and Gretel), “A Monkey’s Paw”, “Steadfast: Tin” and “Her Hair” (which I reviewed yesterday). The entire collection no doubt explores different facets of fairy tales, but for me these six stories stood out and perhaps did what the other five could not.

These stories are about people you might encounter in your daily life: The beast might be your neighbour, Jack could be the person living with his mother who has no ambition whatsoever, you might know Snow White and her prince charming trying to infuse some chemistry back into their marriage or for that matter the perspective of the witch and how two mean children just ate her house through.

I liked the perspectives. I enjoyed knowing about the other side in this book; it isn’t exactly that though – I think it is more to do with: Is there more to these fairy tales? Has all been said about them or are there other details? The art by Yuko Shimizu for every tale are breathtaking and you will go back to them and keep looking and searching for finer details.

The macabre, the perverse, stuff what nightmares are made of, the not so angelic, the terrifyingly real, the twisted, the deranged and damaged and the ones that do not fit well into our so-called society is what these tales focus on. It is something that won’t let you go that easy. I know for a fact that this book was right up my alley. I was talking about it to my friends and cannot stop recommending it.

2016 has begun well with 3 books that I have read and all 3 of them are great reads. As the year progresses, there are only good books to choose and read from.

Michael Cunningham reading from the book:

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