Horse, Flower, Bird

Horse, Flower, Bird

By: Kate Bernheimer

(http://www.katebernheimer.com/)

Coffee House Press 2010

A fairy tale anthology review

Horse, Flower, Bird contains eight original fairy tales for adults by Kate Bernheimer.  Through birds, dolls, flowers, and even Star Wars, Bernheimer discusses humanity in artful curves and colors.  These tales are like the hilt of a knife-hidden behind brightness and intent, but revealed when the deed is done.  They connect the danger of the future with motivations from the past and give the present a thrill.  Above all, they show the hidden edges and fickleness of the things we hold onto.  No matter what is lost-imaginary friends, caretakers, or poems, they leave a story for our minds to cling to, to keep up with who we are in life’s shifting sands.  Like older fairy tales, Bernheimer’s illustrate the importance of these tales we live, with all their beauty and perils.

Horse, Flower, Bird speaks of people as if there is no normal and of ordinary things as if all their meanings are true.  Two sisters playing a game can be as poignant as a woman in a cage.  A secret petting zoo can show human depths as deftly as a woman melding her mind to a room in the woods.  This book is short, the tales eager to be read and easy to come back to.  Like all true fairy tales, these can haunt, soothe, or invite cogitation.  When you feel up for a mysterious journey, this is a good book to turn to and a good work to return to.  I highly recommend it for lovers of older, darker fairy tales.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

By: Vivian Vande Velde

(http://www.vivianvandevelde.com/)

Scholastic Inc. 2001

A fairy tale anthology review

Vivian Vande Velde’s The Rumpelstiltskin Problem contains six stories that grapple with spinning straw into gold.  More amusingly, this book struggles to understand the characters who appear in the familiar story.  What motivates Rumpelstiltskin?  How did the idea of spinning straw into gold start?  What kind of people decide to marry someone they’ve known over threats for three days or offer up their child for some deal concerning gold?  There are many answers in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, all filled with quirks and charm.

 

The stories in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem twist and turn the story’s characters into many actors: cruel kings and kind ones, stupid girls and clever ones, generous spinners and hungry ones.  Whatever person you’re a fan of, this collection has a tale where they are wonderful.  Whoever you dislike, there’s a story to mock their distastefulness.  The consistent features are something to laugh at, someone to like, and playful writing that nudges you along like a hayride: the setting is familiar, the new bumps are fun, and it’s part of a world somewhat different from your own.  Besides, as well as all that straw, each of Vivian Vande Velde’s versions provides a little bit of gold.  It’s just hiding in different places.  The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is a very swift ride that will please.  After my trip I recommend it.

 

 

 

Neil Gaiman’s “M Is for Magic” anthology

M is for Magic

By: Neil Gaiman

(http://www.neilgaiman.com/)

Harper Trophy 2007

A children’s fantasy anthology review

Neil Gaiman’s fantastical stories throw words, images, and problems around like paint in M is for Magic.  The stories range from tales of thievery and the devil to dealings with trolls, phoenixes, and the Holy Grail.  The resulting works brim with bold patterns: zebra stripes, leopard print, and giraffe spots-somewhat familiar, starkly memorable, and all vying for attention.  These bold stories will grab your mind, flash their bright themes, and then settle down quietly for a snack.  Gaiman writes like a general.  He either attacks the reader with surprise, efficiently wrapping everything up before all the meanings and uproar quite settle down, or else slowly sets up his plots to surround and take down, completing his mission so quietly and easily that it feels like you didn’t quite get the full experience you were expecting.

In short, these stories are likeable.  They delve around the edges of disturbing behavior and fairy tales, but always manage to remain uniquely Gaiman’s.  On another note, the way the endings are reached seems designed to leave the reader unsettled and wanting something more.  While that might be appropriate for many of these particular plots, I wish there had been a little bit more resolution with a few of them.  It seems that there is no middle ground with these works, either everything is subtle or absolutely nothing is.  I longed for a little in-between.  That being said, these stories will definitely give you something interesting to while away your time, and they are different enough that there should be something for every fantastic taste.  My personal favorites are “Sunbird” and “Troll Bridge.”  Yours may be something else, but you’ll never know unless you read it.  I recommend taking it to waiting rooms, on airplanes, or anywhere else that really needs a good dose of anti-boredom magic.

Proof the unnatural does not need zombies.

The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet
edited by: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant http://www.lcrw.net/lcrw/thebestof.htm
Ballantine Books 2007

Drawing on a decade of submissions to the zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet , the variety of stories in their newly published “Best Of” anthology hold only one clear message: here there be monsters! Whether it involves mushroom-crazed duchesses, unavoidable ghosts, talking animals, or only a sorry inability to mix a great cocktail, the imaginable atrocities of life, and some that only these authors could have imagined, find vibrant and stirring representations in this book.

Designed to tempt every palate, this collection of far-ranging stories seems to include something for everyone-and no one story can accurately indicate the tone or appeal of the others. A skim through Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is rather like flipping through the stations on a radio: you’ll find everything from pop music to health advice, and one of those stations is bound to interest you. The main difference is that where one might feel silly for finding a commercial more engrossing than anything else on the radio, this book’s offerings embrace so much, in such a short span of pages, their readers will be too busy paying attention to compare them to anything else.

A satisfyingly weird homage to the magazine pledged to publish the best and the oddest of today’s literary world, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is a provoking experience. The only piece of advice that could help prepare readers for some of the strangeness in store for them here, is to avoid reading it right before bedtime.