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Horse, Flower, Bird

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  226 ratings  ·  50 reviews
"Each of these spare and elegant tales rings like a bell in your head. memorable, original, and not much like anything you've read."--Karen Joy Fowler

"A strange and enchanting book, written in crisp, winning sentences; each story begs to be read aloud and savored."--Aimee Bender

""Horse, Flower, Bird" rests uneasily between the intersection of fantasy and reality, dreaming
ebook, 208 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Coffee House Press (first published August 24th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 634)
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Found (but couldn't afford) this at a great indie bookshop, and I left empty-handed and sad. But then a few days later the book gods smiled on me, and I found a $1 proof at the Strand!

And oh la, what a lovely little read.

I guess you'd call these fairy tales, although they could as easily be considered prose poems. Some topics: A lonely, stunted tulip bulb and the girl who kills her. A woman with a secret petting zoo in her basement. A woman who turns herself into a beautiful caged bird. A girl
A charming and charmed diversion imbued with whimsy. This odd little book came to me by way of the author's work with (writing&editing) modernizations of fairy tales. It is thus fitting that this book reprints a piece from another anthology altogether.

The most delightfully enigmatic story was the final one, Whitework, which is said to be in part an homage to Poe's Oval Portrait. I had not recalled reading Whitework previously but know that I had, having devoured My Mother She Killed Me My F
Laura Cowan
This book is so beautifully written and put together, at once eery and mesmerizing. I think I might have liked a little more variety of the cultural influences, but of course that's up to the author. There are many Jewish families in this book, and quite a few references to consuming or being consumed, but if dark neo-fairy tales are your thing, you probably already know how awesome Kate Bernheimer is. This book really encouraged me that my own short story collection in the works could be what i ...more
Tim Storm
A lot shorter than I expected. Each paragraph of each of the 8 short stories in this collection has its own page. The effect is that the stories feel simultaneously shorter and longer than they actually are. But they are quick reads. The first couple didn't capture my imagination as much as stories 3, 4, and 5, which were effective allegories of social isolation. "A Doll's Tale" tells of a quirky little girl who develops close relationships with a doll and then with an imaginary friend, both of ...more
The Brothers Grimm cornered the market on fairy tales, and the original versions of them were often dark...far more frightening than the sanitized versions found in modern children's books. This collection of short stories by Kate Bernheimer entitled Horse, Flower, Bird is a dark collection of tales as well...not suitable for children, because under the seemingly simple stories lies a violent understory. The combination is disconcerting, and makes you wonder how the elements of fear and innocenc ...more
A lovely book to hold, almost square, but a slightly less lovely book to read. Here's the outline of each story: a lonely young female protagonist devises some sort of quirky friendship (human, imaginary doll, bird, petting zoo), which fails. She mentions briefly how scary men come at night, there's some intentionally-uncomfortable sexual detail, and something happens at the end (dies) to make her sad. I loved hearing the author read "Star Wars Sisters" a few years ago, and it's nice that these ...more
Mehwish Mughal
Strange collection of tales. The stories that most talked to me:
A cageling Tale,
A Tulip's Tale,
A Star Wars Tale.
Richard Leis
Disclaimer: I'm currently taking a couple classes taught by Kate Bernheimer, so I'm biased. But this book is incredible.

I love these dark fairy tales and how they appear on the page. Each paragraph gets its own page, often leaving plenty of whitespace so that you can imagine or even draw an illustration that might go along with the passage. Some of the stories seem to be set many years ago, while a story like "A Star Wars Tale" is obviously modern and a story like "Whitework" seems to be timele
As much as Bernheimer is lauded as a reinventor of the fairytale, I think there's an important distinction between such tales and her stories. HORSE, FLOWER, BIRD is full of silence, sad little pauses rooted in air and earth, and they wrap up nicely. Traditional, older fairytales, on the other hand, keep rolling forward towards their twisted conclusions and morals, and end abruptly. In addition, Bernheimer's narrators and main characters are tangible people with complex thoughts; while they may ...more
I can't imagine this book could be any better than it is. That being said, it's not for everyone. The stories are strange, evocative fairy tales, written sparsely but beautifully, with minimal character development and yet each is a character vignette. I hope she writes more such fairy tales.
I was particularly enthralled by "A Doll's Tale," "A Garibaldi Tale," and "Whitework," my favorite.
My criteria for 5-star short story collections:

1) At least two stories must really dazzle me
2) I can at no point feel bored while reading any of the stories

My second round with Bernheimer, very quickly in succession with my first. As before, I'm stunned by the beauty and simplicity of these stories, the way they capture exactly the texture of a fairy tale. Very sad stories that clog up your insides. The best of the bunch are "A Tulip's Tale" and "A Cageling Tale," though I was bored slightly by
I found a copy of this in a thrift shop the other day and decided to get it, something I was surprised at considering I'd never heard of it or the author and I pretty much only buy books if I recognize the author or title or whatever. However, I was feeling adventurous and it was $1.50, so as the kids say these days, YOLO. Initially, I was attracted to the amazing art on the cover and the inside. Not to mention the set up is pretty unique. Its very minimalistic - a page can range from one senten ...more
Quick read, this one... and honestly it's so strange I had a hard time deciding how much I liked it. The author was brought to my attention by an NPR piece about her new anthology of updated fairy tales called My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. Can anyone wonder why I was a bit fascinated by the title?? Anyway, I checked my local library, and while they didn't yet have the new one in stock, they did have this collection of her own bizarre little stories told in a very fairy tale style ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Barbara is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Almost done with this one; picked it up at St Mark's Bookstore. It's a quick read, which does not mean it is an easy read. I plan to have a second go at it. In many ways, the material is familiar, but Bernheimer gives us eerie, which I believe many (most?) of the original fairy tales are. None of this Disney-fied and sanitized narrative. The situations of the female protagonists are troubling, and require a bit of excavating. Alternatively, we can also read their situations as familiar, in the w ...more
Torea Frey
Odd little grown-up fairy tales; I couldn't put the book down. My favorite story was "A Cageling Tale." It's sparse and beautiful and just a little twisted (it involves dead birds, topless dancing, and the construction of a life-size cage in which the protagonist retreats: "Not moving, she feels calm. And when you really think about it, what makes that so wrong?"). The last story, "Whitework," is also stellar. The way in which the narrator glories in her not-knowingness resonated: she becomes ab ...more
James Yates
I've stopped giving star ratings to books, since there are always fluctuations in one's response to a work a minute after finishing it, six months later, six years later, etc. But I recommend this to any writer (fiction, poetry, essays): Bernheimer's craft, lyrical prose, and even the layout are precise and beautiful.
Chanel Earl
This was interesting. The stories were very surprising and stark. Some moments were lovely, others were confusing. I think I will read it again (it is a quick read) and reevaluate, but on first reading I found it a little bit too abstract.

The stories really did read like dreams, and they were sometimes difficult to follow. This was partly caused by the formatting of the book. Each paragraph is on it's own page, which made the stories feel choppy and disjointed. I think they would be easier to r
Andrew Bertaina
I wanted or expected more from this book.
Jarrett Piner
As far as short stories go, this collection is quite unique. Here's how I view the book as a whole:

"A psychiatrist walks down the deepest and darkest corridor in the local insane asylum. At the very end of the hall he opens a door quite creaky from disuse. Entering, he lays this book beside the pale faced individual lying on the bed. 'Good evening William. Today we're going to try something a little different...'".

That will make absolutely no sense until you read this book. My best wishes on a
Jeff Bursey
Not being one for children's stories or fables, I find I'm not one for those written for adults, either. In this case, Kate Bernheimer is successful occasionally, but there are some dull ideas. Her use of Star Wars doesn't do much for me, or to add to it, or even play off it funnily enough,. That piece would be summarized in one line by a comic, but her treatment goes for too many pages. The last piece is the most effective, and a good way to end this fitfully all right collection.
What do you call these, stories or prose poems? They are somewhat like fairy tales, in that what takes place is strange and inexplicable, and they touch the heart (or perhaps somewhere deeper) in a way that old stories do. Most of these stories are tales about children, and they speak about growing up and feeling separate and alienated. I feel like everyone's childhood includes some element of this, so it is easy to relate to, in the same way that it is completely foreign.
A charming, sometimes haunting, collection of stories told in a fairy-tale mode, but contemporary. All the protagonists are female, and many experience a kind of silencing, or closing off of the world. A retreat into themselves. This resonantes with my own experience of coming to terms with selfhood, femininity, and being a writer. The illustrations are fabulous, I adore Rikki Ducornet, and the writing is at times highly poetic. A great read!
I liked the sparse strange style of these tales, but wasn't a fan of the book's design and pagination. Each page has only a paragraph of text, which gives it a storybook feeling that I like, while making me want illustrations that aren't provided. Sigh.
Lyrical. Prose Poem. Fairy Tale. Short Story. Broken Poetry. It repeatedly appears in the reviews of this magical, mystical, original, melancholic reinvention of what was once called a little fairy tale. Read it aloud. Taste it. And dream away.
Kate Berhnheimer’s “Horse, Flower, Bird” is a breath (or a gasp) of a collection, with tales so creepy they make you consider that there are gnomes and children-cooking-ovens hiding in the tales you tell about your own life.
Lisa Grabenstetter
What a strange little book. The stories read almost like broken poetry. I found myself liking it very much, despite the incompleteness. The author would feel quite at home with Small Beer Press, I think. That sort of book.
I should really rate short stories differently as some are always better than the others. Maybe next time I'll rate each story individually. Anyway...this gets a three (give or take).
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Kate Bernheimer is the author of three novels and the story collection Horse, Flower, Bird, as well as children's books. Among other books, she edited the World Fantasy Award winning My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales and the forthcoming xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths.
More about Kate Bernheimer...
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales The Lonely Book The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair

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“Doll-less, invisible friend-less, finally more comfortable in fear than in gladness, Astrid began to live in her head. Or rather inside a small tunnel - a hole - in her head, through which she watched everything gaily depart. She nodded this head and pretended to listen. 'Bye-bye,' she would hear from within.” 4 likes
“All good animals have secret lives.” 3 likes
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