Friday, March 9, 2012

Readers love fairy tales

I am not saying I am DNF-ing My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. I'm not admitting defeat. I am however putting it on a indefinite hiatus. Which is extra stupid because I'm on page 501 out of 536. But I just can't do it.

I love fairy tales. I know I'm not alone in this. You know, obviously, given the title quote. So when I saw this book I got excited. New fairy tales? Please, continue. OK, they're not all new. They're all inspired by an established fairy tale. Some I know well ("The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen) and some that are completely new to me ("The White Cat" by Madame d'Aulnoy). The stories were collected by Kate Bernheimer and include works by Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Aimee Bender and a plethora of authors that I'd never heard of.

I had a brief Twitter conversation with Ellen from Fat Books & Thin Women and Ben from Dead End Follies about short story collections. If there's some consistency in the stories, it's easier to get through, be it a similar topic, a similar writing style or both. This collection has a similar theme but by very different authors. The styles are very different, their treatment of the fairy tales very different. This means that some of the stories are great, some are no fun and most are meh. Or at least the most that I made it through.

I always have trouble reviewing a collection of short stories, and even though in this case I'm not done with the book, I thought I'd write about what I made it through. Because I feel like I haven't written anything in awhile and I'm not letting this book defeat me like that. If the last stories turn out to be the most amazing thing ever, I'll make sure to note that. But for now all I can say is there wasn't enough I liked to make this collection work for me.

The best thing to come out of it is the story by Neil Gaiman. I know I named some authors up above but I should point out I hadn't actually read anything by them before. I'd heard of them because of all the lovely book bloggers that have read them. Now I have their short fairy tale stories and reading Gaiman's makes me want to read more by him. His was a take on the Odyssey (which I feel is a lenient use of the term "fairy tale") but I don't really see the actual connection between Gaiman's version and the Greek epic (so it's a lenient use of The Odyssey).  However, I didn't even care. It's a strange story and involves a substance mistaken for fake tanner and aliens and it's told as a series of answers to questions you don't get to read.

Good parts: Neil Gaiman's story. Bad parts: the boring stories which outnumbered the awesome ones.

Title quote from xvii

Bernheimer, Kate (ed). My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales. Penguin Books, 2010.