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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

Currently reading

Winter's Tales
Karen Blixen, Isak Dinesen
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics)
Rebecca West, Christopher Hitchens
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Already Dead
Charlie Huston
The Rings of Saturn
W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse
Lady Audley's Secret
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, David Skilton
Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" - And How You Can Fight Back
Thom Hartmann
The City, Not Long After
Pat Murphy
You Can Sketch: A Step-by-Step Guide for Absolute Beginners
Jackie Simmonds
Lonely Werewolf Girl
Martin Millar
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales - Neil Gaiman, Alissa Nutting, Carmen Giménez Smith, Naoko Awa, Lily Hoang, Hiromi Itō, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Kellie Wells, Michael Mejia, Lucy Corin, Jonathon Keats, Ilya Kaminsky, Rabih Alameddine, Karen Brennan, Katherine Vaz, Timothy Schaffert, Sarah Shun-lien Byn Some of the stories are okay. A couple are good. An unusual preponderance struck me derivative, boring, and/or pretentious. It bothered me that the publisher tried to present this volume as doing something new and important when it is not. At all. "Reinterpreting" fairy tales as coming-of-age stories or coded depictions of sexual abuse has been done for decades, frequently better than it is here. And to be honest, I think the modern view that this was ever new is kind of embarrassing in its naivety; readers/hearers in earlier centuries knew perfectly well what was happening underneath the curses and magical objects and impossible quests, they just didn't need it spelled out for them in short sentences. And they demanded better stories than we do, apparently.

It was especially disappointing to read the end comments for each story and see how the authors often started with concepts that sound interesting or innovative -- but then wrote something else. I kept wanting to shake them and demand, "So why didn't you write that story?" Brockmeier's idea for writing a story in the form of a mad-lib, for instance; done well, that could have been both really entertaining to read and also explored ideas about reinterpretation itself and the flexibility of meaning. Instead he wrote something that was ugly and depressing, like most of the contributions to this volume. The few stories that admit positive potentialities (eg. Fowler's reclamation of Baba Yaga) or employ humor (eg, Gaiman's story in the form of answers to elided questions) end up really standing out because they interrupt a generally very consistent tone and style.

Lastly, it kind of bothered me how the stories that seemed "ethnic" (i.e. set in Asia or Central America) were lumped together at the end as if that gave them something in common. Makes me wonder how much (or little) thought went into the ordering.