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 Secrets — JK 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. *