Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate My, edited by Kate Bernheimer

Kate Bernheimer put together this stunning collection of fairy tale retellings and remodelings with the idea that "fairy tales remain a literary underdog--undervalued and undermined." Well, I hate to argue with you, Ms. Bernheimer, but look around. They are mined EVERYWHERE right now. Thank you Hollywood.

Okay, now that I've gotten my reverse sarcasm out of the way, let me say that this book is truly a gem. For all the wonderful adaptation and recreations of fairy tales that are out there, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me is a truly spectacular collection, and I thank Ms. Bernheimer for this successful attempt to elevate fairy tales in a literary manner.

If a fairy tale retelling is a treat, then I have gorged myself on this delectable book. With stories from Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, and Francesca Lia Block (to pick a random three among the ones I had previously heard of) these stories give many tales, both obscure and well-known, an excellent and valuable re-illumination.

A couple of my favorites:

Aimee Bender's "The Color Master," retells Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault, and features the tailors who create the princess's beautiful gowns (remember? the moon, the sun, the sky?) and how they manage to pull of the required dresses.

"First Day of Snow" by Naoko Awa features a Kamikakushi Tale from Japan, in which a little girl plays hopscotch with some snow rabbits and is nearly lost forever.

Kevin Brockmeier's "A Day in the Life of Half of Rumpelstiltskin" takes a long moment to imagine how the halves of Rumpelstiltskin fare after all of Rumpelstiltskin is thwarted.

Some stories worked better for me than others, as is the case with any short story collection. Overall, though, this book is well worth your time, both in terms of literary merit and stunning fairy tale retelling.

1 comment:

  1. "Retellings" of fairy tales are excluded from the National Book Awards with myths and folk tales. A pretty sure sign they are the literary underdog. No other kind of story is excluded.