Friday, June 17, 2011

Finding Fairy Tales in Odd Places


The other night, I was looking for something fun to read. I'd been alternating between Calvino's collection of Italian fairy tales and the Grimms. Calvino's collection is stupendous. The tales are insane and playful, just as they ought to be. You can pick up threads of the stories you know from Basile, Straparola and others. You laugh out loud a lot, which can be embarrassing at the specialist's waiting room. They are glorious mash-ups with a dash of working class philosophy. The Grimms? I now have issues with the Grimms. The tales are heavier. Many people mention how 'dark' they are, but I don't find them as dark as others I've read. At least, not in the sense of being deliciously, entertainingly dark. The morality feels a bit too strained. No one seems to really enjoy being wicked.

But I thought I needed a change from fairy tales. So I was browsing the Amazon Kindle store, because I have created my own browsing method for online stores. I'd never heard of Michael Swanwick, but I liked his name. I loved the title, The Dog Said Bow-Wow. The cover is terrific. I clicked through to the first pages. I was sold.

I've still only read the first couple of stories, but they are... fairy tales. Who knew? The blurbs tell you these are stories about Faerie, dinosaurs etc, but as you read... yes, they are absolutely fairy tales. Fairy tales that exist in a world that has science fiction and steampunk. They are amazing. There's a scene in the title story that recalls D'Aulnoy's diamonds and emeralds. Surplus, the hero of the tale, is none other than our Puss in Boots, craftily reimagined as a dog.

I have, in short, found a new author! Readers know that thrill. The sense of discovery, the feeling that an author is writing tales just to entertain you. I admit it, I don't like books that I have to work at loving. I love books that feel like they were written just for me. This collection feels like it was written just for me.

And it's fairy tales! I guess, in the end, I didn't need the change - I just need to find more fairy tales.

(Note added: You might also note the profile picture for the blog has changed. I found my perfect Puss in Boots boots.)

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