Miriam's Reviews > My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by Kate Bernheimer
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May 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: mythology, fairy-tale, short-stories
Read from March 18 to May 03, 2011

Some of the stories are okay. A couple are good. An unusual preponderance struck me derivative, boring, and/or pretentious. It bothered me that the publisher tried to present this volume as doing something new and important when it is not. At all. "Reinterpreting" fairy tales as coming-of-age stories or coded depictions of sexual abuse has been done for decades, frequently better than it is here. And to be honest, I think the modern view that this was ever new is kind of embarrassing in its naivety; readers/hearers in earlier centuries knew perfectly well what was happening underneath the curses and magical objects and impossible quests, they just didn't need it spelled out for them in short sentences. And they demanded better stories than we do, apparently.

It was especially disappointing to read the end comments for each story and see how the authors often started with concepts that sound interesting or innovative -- but then wrote something else. I kept wanting to shake them and demand, "So why didn't you write that story?" Brockmeier's idea for writing a story in the form of a mad-lib, for instance; done well, that could have been both really entertaining to read and also explored ideas about reinterpretation itself and the flexibility of meaning. Instead he wrote something that was ugly and depressing, like most of the contributions to this volume. The few stories that admit positive potentialities (eg. Fowler's reclamation of Baba Yaga) or employ humor (eg, Gaiman's story in the form of answers to elided questions) end up really standing out because they interrupt a generally very consistent tone and style.

Lastly, it kind of bothered me how the stories that seemed "ethnic" (i.e. set in Asia or Central America) were lumped together at the end as if that gave them something in common. Makes me wonder how much (or little) thought went into the ordering.
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Reading Progress

03/20/2011 page 72
13.0% "The idea Brockmeier started with of writing a mad-lib story is a lot more interesting than the story he actually wrote."
03/28/2011 page 100
18.0% "This retelling of the 7 Swans story seems like a more "transgressive" version of Peg Kerr's..."
05/03/2011 page 459
85.0% "Psyche's tasks as metaphor for therapy"
05/03/2011 page 490
90.0% "Addonizio clearly has read Barthelme's Snow White."

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Wowzer, what a title!


Miriam I was hoping it was going to be mind-blowingly unique, but actually it is a lot like a lot of other collections I've read (Datlow, Windling, et al).


Miriam I've bogged down a quarter of the way through, after a couple of rather pretentious stories. There's a lot of that trying-too-hard feel in this collection.


message 4: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez It DOES sort of give away the plot, doesn't it? Or does it?


message 5: by Miriam (last edited Apr 03, 2011 09:43AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Miriam It refers to a very dark type of fairy tale, but a genuine one (as opposed to a lot of things labelled as dark fairy tales, which are influenced in some way by fairy tales but not closely tied), so I was hoping for something a little closer to the source material. But so far neither action indicated in the title has taken place (that I noticed. Some of the stories are kind of... abstract).


message 6: by Eh?Eh! (new) - added it

Eh?Eh! Poor book. I agree with you about this, Miriam.


Miriam Tommy, you can always read just the stories that are by authors you like. In addition to the couple I mentioned in the review, I found Bernheimer's and Link's interesting, and if you like Block this is in her usual style.


message 8: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Dang. I've been wanting to read this. Sounds like this title promises more than it can deliver.


message 9: by Miriam (last edited May 05, 2011 07:35AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Miriam I've wanted to read The Fairy Tale Review. Their site is intriguing. But then, this book sounded intriguing, too... I probably would have rated it one star higher had they not hyped it as important and ground-breaking. I was also disappointed by how many of the stories really had no fairy tale elements.

But I did like the story Bernheimer herself wrote. I'm going to try her The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum next. Although I see neither you nor any of my other friends were impressed :(


message 10: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Miriam wrote: "I'm going to try her The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum next. Although I see neither you nor any of my other friends were impressed :( "

That was such a weird book, and if I'm remembering correctly, I found it rather depressing.


Miriam The cover illustration does look rather gloomy.


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Miriam wrote: "The cover illustration does look rather gloomy."

The inside is worse, in my opinion. A very peculiar story, but out of curiosity you may want to check it out, and you may disagree with my assessment.


Miriam My library has it so I will check out their copy. I doubt I need to own it.


Msmurphybylaw I added this to my to read shelf last year hoping for an Angela Carter Bloody Chamber type of feel, but this sounds like a train wreck. I may check it out at the library for a quick looksy, but not anytime soon. good review.


Miriam I'm pretty sure a lot of the writers were trying for a Bloody Chamber feel. You could practically see them trying. Have you read Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins or Anne Sexton's Transformations?


Msmurphybylaw I've read Sexton's tales and her fairy tale poetry, but have not read Kissing the Witch. I read your review and it looks like something I'd enjoy.

I think Bloody Chamber would have been better if compiled differently. I read it in no order whatsoever and enjoyed slowly.


Miriam I've only read a couple stories from it that were included in other compilations.


message 18: by Paul (new)

Paul "And to be honest, I think the modern view that this was ever new is kind of embarrassing in its naivety; readers/hearers in earlier centuries knew perfectly well what was happening underneath the curses and magical objects and impossible quests, they just didn't need it spelled out for them in short sentences. And the demanded better stories than we do, apparently."

Oh, that was fantastic. I would never have read this book in any case, so its ability to elicit this Twainian outburst of awesomeness is just extra credit.


Miriam I have, Chandra, and I thought it was much better than this collection, as well as appealing to a broader readership.


Miriam Datlow & Co are usually pretty solid.


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