The Books of April

Things I Read:

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
— Kate Bernheimer, ed.
These essays about per­son­al rela­tion­ships to the genre of fairy tales might be okay as one-offs, but an entire col­lec­tion of rem­i­nisces about the role that fairy tale played in story-teller and aca­d­e­m­ic lives is cloy­ing and dead­en­ing. There’re only so many tales of moth­ers good and cru­el, and sex­u­al awak­en­ing, and preda­to­ry males that you can read before they all run togeth­er into one sad, homog­e­nized lump. Seek out the writ­ings of your favorite authors on all sorts of sto­ry telling and leave this col­lec­tion on the shelf.
* too many sim­i­lar essays *

The Fairy Tale Review — Ochre issue (2016)
A new to me annu­al pub­li­ca­tion that focus­es on new fairy tales, retelling of old fairy tales and fairy tale schol­ar­ship. This issue con­tains sev­er­al fab­u­lous pieces. The prize-winning Courtney Bird’s The Diamond Girl, a retelling of the clas­sic Diamonds and Toads tale, sings with orig­i­nal­i­ty and class. Also fairy tale poet­ry does­n’t have to suck.
* enter­tain­ing enough to order back issues *

Mr and Mrs Dog — Donald McCaig
McCain tells the  sto­ry of attempt­ing to get to the World Sheepdog Trials in Wales with his two dogs June and Luke. McCaig knows his dogs well and his descrip­tions of them work­ing are lyri­cal.  Stories about tri­als, and train­ing, and dogs he has known, alter­nate with some inter­est­ing insights into the var­i­ous dog train­ing “camps” (I say inter­est­ing because I do not always agree with him but he argues well.) He’s a lit­tle too fond of Kohler and too dis­mis­sive of the more recent pos­i­tive meth­ods. Though he, like I, find that the best train­ing method depends on the dog, the train­er, and the task. I just come down a lit­tle fur­ther away from the old­er Kohler school than he does.
The tales of sheep­dogs and sheep and the small world of sheep dog tri­al­ing are fun to read and his thoughts on dog train­ing will chal­lenge you no mat­ter what your philosophy
* if you like dogs or James Herriot *

A Plague of Doves — Louise Erdrich
Another tale of those who live on and near the reser­va­tions in North Dakota. Once again she uses mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tors — all them relat­ed in some way by either blood, mar­riage, or sto­ry. Each brings a par­tic­u­lar per­spec­tive on the cru­cial start­ing point of the sto­ry: the mur­der of a set­tler fam­i­ly and the sub­se­quent ret­ri­bu­tion hang­ing of the wrong Indian men many years ago. Which sounds ghast­ly when laid out so bare and bald but the sto­ries area typ­i­cal Erdrich, full of per­son­al­i­ty and ele­gant language.
* some of the most effec­tive braid­ed nar­ra­tive you will ever read *

Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Non-Fiction — Dinty W. Moore ed.
Third of a tril­o­gy of books of craft essays address­ing very short forms of writ­ing. (Flash Fiction, Prose Poetry, and Flash Non-Fiction) Flash non-fiction is more actu­al­ly what we should call the very short essay. Things that man­age to express them­selves in less than 750 words. (Or so — oth­er venues con­sid­er the short essay to be any­thing less than 2000 words.) I found the dis­cus­sions of tech­ni­cal aspects — POV, tense, you vs I, fram­ing — to be the most use­ful. It’s a good resource. It will also point you to Brevity mag­a­zine and it’s many excel­lent blog posts. The exer­cis­es are occa­sion­al­ly useful.
* bet­ter writ­ing man­u­al than most *

Things I listened to:

Zero History — William Gibson
Last of the most recent tril­o­gy often referred to as the Blue Ant tril­o­gy — once again about brand­ing and mer­chan­diz­ing and secret mar­kets. Not my favorite of the three but always a good sto­ry from Gibson.
* more than you ever want­ed to know about secret mar­ket denim *


Hat Full of Sky — Terry Pratchett
In the sec­ond book of Pratchett’s series for younger read­ers, Tiffany, now age 11, is grow­ing into her role as the witch of the chalk. She leaves home to appren­tice with anoth­er witch and is men­aced by a being called a hive. Once again the Nac Mac Feegles help and hin­der in equal amounts. The sto­ry is sim­ple and a lit­tle didac­tic but many of us will rec­og­nize the world of pre­teen girls and enjoy the com­pa­ny of many of Pratchett’s reg­u­lar cast of witch­es includ­ing Granny Weatherwax.
* who does­n’t occa­sion­al­ly feel beset by the Nac Mac Feegles? *

Harry Potter Book and the Sorcerer’s Stone




Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJK Rowling.
I’ve actu­al­ly only read the first Harry Potter. But I’ve seen all the movies. These great big (and get­ting big­ger books) pro­vide light enter­tain­ment to lis­ten to while I’m doing house work, etc. They are sim­ple enough that you can miss a few sen­tences when your atten­tion is drawn to some­thing else (How did the soy sauce get in the fridge?) with­out los­ing the plot.
I have to say that I now under­stand some of the crit­i­cisms of the movies — par­tic­u­lar­ly the flat­ten­ing of the char­ac­ters of Ron and Hermione.  So yes, this is pri­mar­i­ly enter­tain­ment but you can also learn a lot about how vast sprawl­ing fan­ta­sy sto­ries work by listening.
* yeah, it’s a lit­tle late for me to be get­ting around to these. *