For me, Possession is like a bottle of wine or a box of really good chocolate (the really, expensive and sinfully good kind). There is an aboluste bea...moreFor me, Possession is like a bottle of wine or a box of really good chocolate (the really, expensive and sinfully good kind). There is an aboluste beauty in this book, and it seems to lie in the details. How all the characters still in character, the resolution to both romances at the end, all the touches about criticism - all these ring true.
Over the years I have read this book, my favorite character has gone from Maud to Leonora then to both. Leonora, it seems to me, is so much larger than life, and I have to wonder if the character got away from Byatt, if perhaps, she had been intended to be more of "bad" critic than she is.
One of the best and greatest books ever written. Without a doubt, a canon book. Something I re-read every year to year and a half.(less)
I fell in love with the work of A. S. Byatt after reading her story "The Story of the Eldest Princess". I love fairy tales, but I also am the eldest c...moreI fell in love with the work of A. S. Byatt after reading her story "The Story of the Eldest Princess". I love fairy tales, but I also am the eldest child in my family and always felt a little slighted because in most fairy tales the older children fail. Even after I learned why that was, it still got tiresome. It was refreshing to read a story that approached fairy tales from the viewpoint of an eldest child who knows she is caught in the tale and what that means. It's a wonderful story for any eldest children to read, and, quite frankly, worth the price of the book.
The other stories are good. "The Glass Coffin" appears in Byatt's Possession, and the title story, while slow, is one of those stories that rewards dedicated readers. If you want to read Byatt, but prefer short stories to novels, this collection is worth reading. (less)
I assigned this book to a reading class. The class was all from the inner city, and they all enjoyed the stories so much so that even the quiet ones d...moreI assigned this book to a reading class. The class was all from the inner city, and they all enjoyed the stories so much so that even the quiet ones discussed them in class. It speaks heavily for Byatt's writing style that her work can connect with students who have such a different background than hers.(less)
The essays in this book center around the writing of historical fiction as well as the use of stories. Byatt gives insightful comments abouts the popu...moreThe essays in this book center around the writing of historical fiction as well as the use of stories. Byatt gives insightful comments abouts the popularity of the genre as well as analysis of some of the writers in the genre. She focuses on Penelope Fitzgerald, Bowen, Swift, Blixen, and Pratchett among others.
Byatt also includes remarks about her own works - Possession, Angels and Insects, and the Fredericka novels. After reading this book, I think I finally understand the ending of Still Life. She also discusses her methods in writing the books as well as where the ideas for the stories came from.
Byatt's prose is engaging, and you do it have to have a degree in literary theory to understand her. In fact, sometimes she seems to be writing aganist theory and for the text of books. This theme is in Possession and having read some far out criticism in my time, Byatt's theme is one I am in agreement with.(less)
Byatt writes her criticism as if she is speaking to you. The essays in this collection are all good and enterating. I enjoyed the ones about Browning,...moreByatt writes her criticism as if she is speaking to you. The essays in this collection are all good and enterating. I enjoyed the ones about Browning, Ford, Coleridge and Van Gogh. Now, I want to re-read the books she talked about.
Of more interest to me was her essay about judging the TLS poetry competition. The essay deals with how to teaching writing and her remarks about how writing should be taught stuck a chord.(less)
I was lucky enough to be in Toronto and so was able to pick this up before its U.S. release (apparently we don't deserve it until the fall).
I thought...moreI was lucky enough to be in Toronto and so was able to pick this up before its U.S. release (apparently we don't deserve it until the fall).
I thought it would be a second Possession, but it's not, which is good. In some ways, Byatt's style in this book seems closer to the style of her sister, Drabble, a hands off approach which makes it a little harder (or takes longer) to come to terms or grips with characters. There are even some characters we never come to grips with (interesting considering the closing chapters of the novel).
But eventually, the central characters come to the fore, and they comply the story onward and upward. The book makes you think, think about what it is saying or commenting on which seems to be life and the effect that people have on it, their own and the lives of others. There is much about art, life, and, of course, fairy tales. But there is so much more to the book than that. I finished the book a few days ago, and I am still trying to figure out my exact response to it.
This, I think, is what makes it a good read because you are thinking, and because Byatt doesn't spell everything out. The reader is allowed to take what she/he wants from it. (less)
There are thrills that you can get from reading a book. There is the thrill of a totally mind numbing, heart stopping good book. The thrill one gets f...moreThere are thrills that you can get from reading a book. There is the thrill of a totally mind numbing, heart stopping good book. The thrill one gets from reading a beloved book yet again. Then there is a different thrill. The wow, the author likes it too thrill.
That's what happened here.
I've read four of these tales before. My favorite French fairy tale is included in this volumne.
It's "The Great Green Wurm".
I get the book and see, to my surprise, that A.S. Byatt translated one of the stories. I start reading and get a bigger thrill that she translated, you guessed it, "The Great Green Wurm".
I love "TGGW" because it is a fairy tale about the elder princess (hence, why Byatt might have translated it). I love the story because it is a dual "Beauty and the Beast" and a descendent of "Cupid and Pysche", except Hidessa, the heroine, is far, far cooler.
She's not stupid. She's got guts.
It's so cool that Byatt translated this one. I wonder if it is her favorite French fairy tale too. I know she was influenced by it in some of her work, but this is so awesome.
Also included in this volumne is the wonderful "The Subtle Princess" also sometimes called "The Story of Finette" (Finessa this translation). I have read several translations of this tale, and all the translations seem to have been good. Gilbert Adair's, however, has the most life and most humor. If you haven't read "SP" before, be prepared for a princess who can handle an ax ("with which her fingers toyed as though it were as light and airy as a fan"), can make a man take responisblity for his offspring instead of the single mother having to deal with the children, and she kicks people into glass filled barrels. It's a shame that this story is not read to young girls more often. Finessa is a better role model than any of the standard fairy tale heroines.
"The White Cat" is the lead story, and most likely the most famous one. It is a good inversion of a Beauty and Beast story, yet the changes are interesting. The cat helps the prince, not the prince's father as in the standard girl versions of the story.
I didn't like Murat's version of "Bearskin", though it has some humor. Part of the problem is that after the "SP", I kept wondering what happened to the princess' maid, for she had cunning and the princess didn't. "Starlight", as well, lacked some charm.
I haven't read "The Counterfeit Marquise" before. As I read it, I kept imagining Monty Python acting it out.
I have to agree with S. Sims review of the book. It does help if you are familiar with Propp, Zipes, and Arne as well as the works under discussion. I...moreI have to agree with S. Sims review of the book. It does help if you are familiar with Propp, Zipes, and Arne as well as the works under discussion. It is not an introductory text. It is for people who have a good background in fairy tale criticism and are not just approaching the field.
That said, it does present some very good analysis of both Byatt and Carter, focusing solely on the both author's fairy tales. Those sections of the book were very engaging and are worth a read for another who is a fan of either woman.
I was somewhat less impressed with her reading of popular fiction and the use of the fairy tale. While I think it would be fair to acknowledge that much popular fantasy is slushy (or to use Tiffin's phrase in the ghetto), certain authors are not, and the field itself can be considered literature. In fact, Byatt and Carter can be said to write fantasy. And if we are using the term popular, Lee and Tepper are not as popular as other authors who make the best seller list. Her analysis on Lee, Tepper, and Pratchett is good; it is her approach to the fantasy as a whole that is a little off putting. Additionally, while she lists the fairy tale series by Datlow/Windling, she neglects to mention The Nightingale which is one of the best novels in the series.
Worth reading, however, for the analysis of Byatt and Carter alone.(less)
I have been waiting years for this book, ever since I got my first book in the Canongate series.
There is something about a well loved book. Not only c...moreI have been waiting years for this book, ever since I got my first book in the Canongate series.
There is something about a well loved book. Not only can you remmeber the plot, but you can also, quite easily, remember the first time you read the book. The train, the room, the seat, the feeling. It's not every book, but those well loved books. For me they number books such as The Hero and the Crown, Wyrd Sisters, and Duncton Tales.
This book by Byatt starts slow, but then you realize what she is doing, you get overwhelmed not only by the stories of the Norse gods which she brillantly retells, but also by the thin girl's (a shade of Byatt herself perhaps)discovery of them. Juxaposed with this is not only the second World War but any sense of ending or destruction. Even that hollow (and hallow) feeling that one gets when reaching the end of a good book.
Byatt, thankfully, did not intend and, therefore, did not make, the book into a sermon, though the afterword indicates eco-issues were on her mind when she wrote it. There are so many different levels to the story -which is simply discovery of story - that it transcends not only the myth itself, but in some ways rivals the brillance of Possession, though this book can be read in a sitting.
Byatt's ability to use language is on full display, and the book is part prose poem as well as moving retelling of the Norse Gods. I wish Byatt would do a full retelling; her description of Midgard serpent is sensual, threatening, and right on target.
This is one of those slow, sneaky, quietly grabs you type of a book.(less)
I've read "The Song of Solomon" before, but it is one of those works of art and faith that gains power and passion each time you read it. Byatt's intr...moreI've read "The Song of Solomon" before, but it is one of those works of art and faith that gains power and passion each time you read it. Byatt's introduction is a wonderful fit.(less)
This is a rather nice collection of criticism based on retellings of fairy tales. I found the essay on McKinley as well as the one on the Fables comic...moreThis is a rather nice collection of criticism based on retellings of fairy tales. I found the essay on McKinley as well as the one on the Fables comice books to be the two most interesting. But the essays are very good and even when about works you haven't read, they make you want to read them.
I picked this up sooner than I was planning because of an interview Rushdie did with local radio host Mary Moss- Coane and the...moreFull review at Booklikes
I picked this up sooner than I was planning because of an interview Rushdie did with local radio host Mary Moss- Coane and the section he read about talking his son to carnival. Very funny. This memoir is in some ways two books. The first half of the book is great, the second half feels somewhat like an appointment diary fleshed out. It’s possible that the latter half of the experience is still to raw or that the death of his first wife is too raw. Rushdie is honest, and in this regard reminds me of Neil Simon’s Memoirs. In part, the selling point is the dish on other authors and how they respond to Rushdie’s predicament. Angela Carter and A. S. Byatt fans will enjoy the brief cameos the ladies make. It is a reminder of how small the literary establishment at the time. (less)