Minli'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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's review
Dec 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: adult, sirens-2012, mythic, book-club, made-me-think, own, lent
Read in December, 2011

Award-winning short story collection from all your favourite adult literary powerhouses. Aka, not something I would read on my own, but since it's fairytale retellings, I'd happily leave me fantasy-and-YA-hole for it. (Just kidding, I do actually read other stuff.)

Like all anthologies, this one is a mixed bag, but I really loved Kate Bernheimer's conception and Gregory Maguire's introduction. Fairytales are not something that leave us after we are no longer children--the themes and motifs can whisper and echo throughout our lifetimes in any form of narrative we possess. Plus I just love the fairytale aesthetic--it's like an opera libretto, the blueprint of a house that's meant to be remodeled and decorated in every era. Or maybe not even that. It's the plot of land our heart sits on to build a dwelling, whatever form that it takes.

Stories are stories and never die. Some of the stories in this collection are boring, nonsensical, rambling, confusing, maybe even borderline repulsive. Others are amazing and give me a new appreciation for the original. Aimee Bender's "The Color Master," a retelling of Donkeyskin from the apprentice dressmaker's point of view is everything I love in a retelling--beautifully written, highlighting a mundane/overlooked aspect of the original fairytale, and looking so damn pretty while doing it. She's re-written it as a tale about the creation of art.

Another standout for me is Francesca Lia Block's 'modern' retelling of Cupid and Psyche as two people in a contemporary setting looking for love. It's a tale of love gone a little sour, but love that nevertheless happened, and it was genuine when it did. And reminds me that love isn't actually perfect and instant like we see in fairytales, but that the depiction of love-in-fairytales has changed to include love-is-a-work-in-progress just like people are. And that it's still worth it to try. Fairytale doesn't have to be a fixed signifier but can also change to encompass new meanings.

Some stories are short, some are long. People might hate the ones I liked, liked the ones I hated, but if your childhood diet consisted of a steady supply of fairytales, you'll find something to sink your teeth into.
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