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There is a quarrel inside me about fairies, and the form of literature their presence helps to define. I have never tried to see a fairy, or at least not since I was five years old. The interest of Casimiro Piccolo reveals how attitudes to folklore belong to their time: he was affected by the scientific inquiry into the paranormal which flourished – in highly intellectual circles – from the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. But he also presents a test case, I feel, for the questions that hang around fairies and fairy tales in the twenty-first century. What is the point of them? What are the uses of such enchantments today? The absurdity of this form of magical belief (religious miracles are felt to be different, and not only by believers) creates a quarrel inside me, about the worth of this form of literature and entertainment I enjoy so much. In what way am I ‘away with the fairies’, too?
Suspicion now hangs around fairy tales because the kind of supernatural creatures and events they include belong to a belief system nobody subscribes to anymore. Even children, unless very small, are in on the secret that fairyland is a fantasy. In the past, however, allusions to fairies could be dangerous not because belief in them was scorned, but because they were feared: Kirk collected the beliefs of his flock in order to defend them against charges of heterodoxy or witchcraft, and, the same time as Kirk’s ethnographical activities, Charles Perrault published his crucially influential collection (l697), in which he pokes fun, with suave courtly wit, at the dangerousness of witches and witchcraft, ogres and talking animals. Perrault is slippery and ambiguous. His Cinderella is a tale of marvellously efficacious magic, but he ends with a moral: recommending his readers to find themselves well-placed godmothers. Not long before he was writing his fairy tales, France and other places in Europe had seen many people condemned to death on suspicion of using magic. The fairy tale emerges as entertainment in a proto-enlightenment move to show that there is nothing to fear.
The current state of fairy tale – whether metastasized in huge blockbuster films or refreshed and re-invigorated in the fiction of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood or, most recently, Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox, and, this year, Boy Snow Bird) does not invite, let alone compel, belief in its magic elements as from an audience of adepts or faithful. Contemporary readers and audiences, including children over the age of 6, are too savvy about special effects and plot lines and the science/magic overlap to accept supernatural causes behind Angelina Jolie’s soaring in Maleficent or the transmogrifications of the characters. Nor do they, nor do we need to suspend disbelief in the willed way Coleridge described.
Rather the ways of approaching the old material – Blue Beard, The Robber Bridegroom, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and so on – opens up the stories to new meanings. The familiar narrative becomes the arena for raising questions; the story’s well known features provide a common language for thinking about families and love, childhood and marriage. Fairies and their realm allow thought experiments about alternative arrangements in this world. We are no longer looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but seeing through them to glimpse other things. As the little girl realises in The Servant’s Tale by Paula Fox, her grandmother through her stories ‘saw what others couldn’t see, that for her the meaning of one thing could also be the meaning of a greater thing.’ In the past, these other, greater things were most often promises – escape, revenge, recognition, glory – but the trend of fairy tales is turning darker, and many retellings no longer hold out such bright eyed hope.
Featured image credit: Sleeping Beauty, by Viktor M. Vasnetsov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Anna Todd, the first-time author whose online fan fiction series After became a Wattpad sensation, has had a big month.
Publishing one chapter at a time, Todd racked up 1 billion reads online and gained avid fans worldwide. Last week, Paramount Pictures announced it had acquired screen rights, and this week, After was pubbed newly revised and expanded in a paperback from Gallery Books, part of a six-figure, multi-book deal with further print releases set for this November 18, December 30, and February 10, 2015.
Talking with Alexandra Alter, Todd told the New York Times that she began as a Wattpad reader, hooked on serialized fictional stories about British boy band One Direction. In 2013, she started writing her own fiction about a female college freshman who gets involved with a tattooed, lip-ringed, cute, tousled-haired guy named Harry Styles.
“I didn’t think anyone would read it.” … She updated “After” with a new chapter every day to meet readers’ demands and tapped out much of the book on her cellphone. She wrote for five hours a day and spent three hours trading messages with readers on Wattpad, Twitter and Instagram and drew on those comments to help her shape the story.
“The only way I know how to write is socially and getting immediate feedback on my phone,” she said.
Todd also told Alter that she receives threats daily from angry One Direction fans on Twitter and Tumblr, which explains why, as Alter reports, in the print After the romantic lead is no longer Harry Styles but Hardin Scott. We’ll know soon enough if After is as big in print for $16 as it is online at Wattpad, where it remains free.
In other Wattpad news, the site is currently hosting two contests. “Share your Yes moment,” cohosted with HarperCollins, is the call for the Yes Please by Amy Poehler Writing Contest. They want to hear about a moment when your life changed because of saying yes. The Yes Please prize pack includes a tweet shout-out from Amy’s Smart Girls. And, to celebrate Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, fans are asked to write a piece of fanfiction inspired by her Freeze-Dried Groom on Wattpad. Atwood will choose and recognize the winning story.
Random House has released Margaret Atwood’s new short fiction collection, Stone Mattress. One of the nine tales, “The Freeze-Dried Groom,” has been posted on Wattpad. This particular piece leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.
Some of these queries include “Will Sam be a killer or a victim?” and “What are the other characters’ versions of events?” Fans are invited to take part in a writing contest to answer these questions. Follow this link to learn about all the rules.
The deadline has been set for October 31st at 11:59 p.m. EST and a winner will be announced on November 18th. The grand prize winner will receive a signed Stone Mattress anthology, a tweet from Atwood, and loot from Wattpad. Two runner-ups will also receive autographed of copies of Atwood’s book.
We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending September 28, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.
(Debuted at #7 in Hardcover Nonfiction) How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, III &Jonathan Rosenberg: “The authors explain how technology has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers, and that the only way to succeed in this ever-changing landscape is to create superior products and attract a new breed of multifaceted employees whom Eric and Jonathan dub ‘smart creatives.’” (September 2014)
Peopled by the bewildered, the belittled, the aging, the tales in Stone Mattress follow characters deposited in modern society but haunted by a palpable, insistent past. Atwood is a legend with fiercely devoted fans, but her works are so witty and absorbing that, even if you've never picked up one of her books, you'll immediately [...]
Margaret Atwood is working on a new novel, but don’t expect to read it any time soon. In fact, you will probably never read it, as she doesn’t plan to publish it for 100 years.
The novel is part of The Future Library project, spearheaded by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. The project organizers planted 1,000 trees in Norway to supply the paper to print a collection of books in 2114. They plan to invite one writer a year to contribute a new text and print all of the books in 100 years.
The Guardian has more: “The award-winning author said she was unbothered by the fact that, during her lifetime at least, no one but her will ever read the story she has already started writing. ‘What a pleasure,’ she said. ‘You don’t have to be around for the part when if it’s a good review the publisher takes credit for it and if it’s a bad review it’s all your fault. And why would I believe them anyway?’”
Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is developing Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic drama MaddAddam for HBO.
The TV series will be based on Atwood's trilogy Oryx and Crake, Year Of The Flood and MaddAddam. The epic story takes place after a Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity in the 21st century, in a corporate controlled world. Atwood recently won the Orion Book Award for the novel MaddAddam.
Deadline.com has the scoop: "Producer Brandi-Ann Milbradt, who is engaged to Aronofsky, brought the project to Protozoa and will serve as executive producer alongside Aronofsky and his longtime collaborator, Protozoa Pictures president Ari Handel. Atwood serves as consulting producer. Aronofsky and his team are currently meeting with writers."
Canadian author Margaret Atwood has won the Orion Book Award for fiction for her work MaddAddam. Scottish writer Kathleen Jamie won the prize for nonfiction for her work Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World.
The prizes are awarded to books that "deepen the reader’s connection to the natural world through fresh ideas and excellence in writing." "Margaret Atwood’s witty insights into the lay of our cultural and environmental landscape infuse her work with just the right balance of devastation and humor," explained the editors of Orion magazine that chose Atwood, in a statement. "She has a masterful grasp of how storytelling is intimately tied to resilience, and nowhere is that more evident than in this newest novel."
The editors went on to explain why they chose Jamie's work. "Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines dissects the natural world with precision, humor, and love," reads the statement. "The essays in this book not only inspire us to look more closely, but also have the power to open us up to a new kind of emotional experience of the planet."
What am I reading now? Wandering Wenda by Margaret Atwood
Time Magazine Cover by Mary GrandPré
Harry Potter. What comes to mind when you hear that name? Hogwarts, Magic, Wizard. Let me throw another in to the mix that, perhaps, you didn’t think of: Longevity.
Four years: That’s how long it’s been since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. To this day, J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter is as much a part of our culture as he was than. Actually, in many ways, his reach has grown exponentially.
The growth that I speak can be solely contributed to Pottermore. The creation of this “unique online Harry Potter experience by J.K. Rowling” is, without question, a rebirth for the series. Nothing signals that more then the timing of its release — after the publication of all seven books but before the release of the final movie. Fans didn’t have to say goodbye to their beloved friends after all.
To make certain that wouldn’t change anytime soon Pottermore entered the social media arena. Why? Well, that’s precisely where Potter fans spend their time. In fact, Pottermore took it a step further by launching a corresponding blog, Pottermore Insider, and a Twitter account, @pottermore. Harry Potter has progressed from books to movies to fansites and now taken over social media. And in doing so, ensures that both fans and readers are never far away from tapping in to the magic.
The character of Harry Potter is now an entity that commands attention with the least amount of effort. The mere mention of the name can turn heads. Now that speaks volumes of what he has come to mean to the masses.
Harry Potter may have started out as “the boy who lived” but has quickly become the boy who will live on.
Margaret Atwood was interviewed for New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog and responded to questions about The Hunger Games, which Atwood seemed to not be very familiar with but felt was similar to a portion of her novel Year of the Flood.
So, basically it’s Painball fromYear of the Flood in which people are pitted against other people so other people can watch it on TV? And the origin of that of course is paintball, which is a real thing! It’s always nice to have people see the beauty of one’s ideas. I’m flattered. [Chuckles.] It sounds interesting. Some of these things go way back, mythologically.
In a spooky coincidence, Neil Gaimanrecorded the audiobook version of his contribution yesterday, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.” The book also includes work by Dave Eggers, Joe Hill, Audrey Niffenegger, Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman.
Sam Weller, one of the book’s editors and the author of The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradburyposted this message: “I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again. The problem with death, you once said to me, is that ‘it is so damned permanent.’ I will miss you dear man, mentor, father, friend. I type these words through heavy tears. I thank you for 12 glorious years of life, learning and laughter. You have blessed me and my family beyond measure, and for that, I thank you. I LOVE YOU.”
Okay, The Beatrix is on her way back from Sunny California, so we’re restocking the refrigerator, refilling liquor bottles, and covering the strawberry stains on the ceiling with a fresh coat of paint.
So, what’s still floating around in our data banks? All sorts of interesting stuff which seems to have been overlooked while Hollywood was in town!
There are just four cards in each pack, but they all pack a punch! First fans will receive a premium base card on thick card stock from the 50-card base set numbered to just 99 copies. Next they will receive a one-of-one sketch card from top Marvel artists. The third card is an industry first where collectors will find a dual, triple or quadruple hinged sketch card. These are really remarkable trading cards and we will be releasing images of them soon. The fourth card will be either a “Classic Corners” card, a Shadowbox card or an “Emotion” booklet card by Jason Adams and NAR!
Are those cards worth $50 each? $10,000 to collect the whole set (if you don’t get duplicates!) What would an unopened pack (one of a calculated 5000) be worth years from now? Basically, Upper Deck is offering nothing but premiums in each pack, which isn’t a bad marketing ploy. Of course, the only way to surpass this would be to offer a single card set of 5000 cards, and let someone try to acquire the entire set (or subsets). Maybe take that sixteen-square-foot “Marvel Universe” poster and cut it into cards. Or commission a newer version, perhaps done on art boards, and cut those up into smaller squares… sort of a sketch card and collector card all in one. Print the art in blue pencil, and have artists finish the artwork, signing the back of each card.
Hmmm…. I wonder what the empty wrapper will be worth?
And also at the Con: Rust, My Friend Dahmer, Creepy are in development. No. REALLY. I keep hoping for “The Cowboy Wally Show” and “Proposition Player”… both could be made for less than $20 Million, easy. Heck, shoot “Wally” on video, to make it seem even more a
Today would have marked the 92nd birthday of beloved science-fiction author Ray Bradbury. To celebrate, we caught up with three writers who contributed pieces to Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury.
The trio of writers we spoke with include Hugo Award-winner Kelly Link, 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin and bestselling novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard. We’ve included their thoughts below.
If you are looking for more Bradbury birthday celebration, SiriusXM Book Radio host Kim Alexander will talk with biographer Sam Weller, author Mort Castle and novelist Margaret Atwood about the late science fiction author tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Novelist Margaret Atwood and true-crime writer Joe McGinniss will serialize new work with the digital publisher Byliner.
Part of the new Byliner Serials program, the installments will be sold for $2.99 in variety of digital marketplaces. Follow this link to sample Atwood’s Positron and click here to sample McGinniss’ 15 Gothic Street. Here’s more about the serialized works:
Atwood’s darkly comic serial, Positron, was inspired by the resounding response to her short story, I’m Starved for You, which she originally published under the Byliner Fiction imprint in March. The second episode, Choke Collar, comes out today, continuing the story of husband and wife Stan and Charmaine and life in a near future in which a totalitarian state collides with messy human desire. McGinniss’s 15th Gothic Street serial tells the true story of life in and out of an American courthouse over the course of a tumultuous yet typical year. Imagine Law & Order set in Lake Wobegon, except that here it’s all quite real.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985. I was a junior in high school that year and I wish I could say I was with it enough to know about the book but I didn’t even know who Margaret Atwood was back then. Not until I got to college and took a literature by women class did I learn about her. We did not read Handmaid’s Tale in that class. Instead, we read Surfacing and Cat’s Eye. Surfacing is tied for first with Alias Grace as my favorite Atwood book. Over the years I have managed to read Atwood’s poetry, a good many of her essays, and all but two of her novels, The Robber Bride and The Handmaid’s Tale.
I don’t know why I waited so long to read Handmaid’s Tale especially since I went to the dark side in college and became a feminist. Maybe it is because the book became so very popular and for awhile, especially when the movie came out (I did see that) everyone was reading the book. I am not generally accused of hopping onto bandwagons, so I stood aside and watched it drive on by. And after that it just became one of those books I needed to get to.
Well, I finally got to it. I was kind of disappointed. I liked the book and everything, don’t get me wrong. I found it intense and frightening, a story that is still all too possibly real. The writing is good, the story moves along and I found myself fearing for the safety of Offred. I hated the ending. That might be a big part of my disappointment. When I closed the book I had a “that’s all?” sort of feeling. I was expecting more, something bigger, something more damning of the way women are treated. But the style of the book, while not a diary, is diary-like and sort of documentary in a way. And even though I had feared for Offred, I didn’t get an emotional payoff at the end. Having the final chapter be a conference in the future on the history of what happened during the time of the book featuring a discussion on the provenance of the “tale” I had just read is such a bland way to wrap things up. The end needed punch, something like Orwell’s 1984 where Winston ends up loving Big Brother. Not that I want Offred to end loving the totalitarian state of Gilead, but something with a bit of oomph would have been more satisfactory.
Ending aside, Atwood does a fantastic job of creating Gilead and of explaining how it all came about. What resonated most for me was this simple bit:
We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.
Isn’t that how a good many horrors happen? These lines made me think of WWII and the people living practically next door to concentration camps who said they had no idea what was going on. I like to think I would notice something like a concentration camp or even the small changes towards a totalitarian society but when I read books like Handmaid’s Tale there is a small part of me that worries I wouldn’t notice, that I would ignore. I don’t know what I fear more, the possibility of being a person who ignores or living in a society like Gilead.
The book isn’t all doom and gloom, well it is, but there are moments of wry Atwood humor:
The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the words it contains. Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen.
“Pen Is Envy” Ha!
The Handmaid’s Tale has made its way onto high school and college reading lists. I am very glad for that because it seems a good book to foster discussion about women, religion, and politics. The book is jam-packed with juicy discussable things from the big and obvious to the small and subtle. I will leave you with one of my favorite subtle bits, one that gives me a chill every time I read it:
Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.
Now I suppose I should get around to reading Robber Bride so I can be all caught up on Atwood novels. Perhaps a book to put on my 2013 reading goals list.
Margaret Atwood's haunting companion to Oryx and Crake will leave you hungry for another book in this "speculative fiction" universe. Written in the alternating voices of young and initially naive Ren and nostalgic but wounded Toby, the novel explores themes of ecology, disaster, relationships, and religion in a world that feels eerily familiar. Unlike Oryx [...]
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
I was a bit grumpy Friday when my copy of Margaret Atwood’s newest book MaddAddam did not get delivered. Well okay, fine. Saturday. It will arrive Saturday. Saturday came and went and no book delivery. I checked the tracking once again and it was supposed to be delivered. Grr. Not that I was going to read it right away mind you, but that is beside the point. I have a suspicion that my mail carrier does not like us. He leaves us notes on our junk mail sometimes if a garden plant has flopped over into the walkway to the house and we haven’t had the chance to tie it up yet. And he isn’t always so very nice about the way he puts magazines into the mailbox, sometimes cramming them in so they get ripped and mangled. I have no idea what we could have done to be worthy of his postal scorn but a pattern has developed and has carried on long enough to prove we are definitely disliked. So I was beginning to think the mail carrier was up to no good.
But the book got delivered today. Finally! And opening the box and removing the book, grumpy all over again because there was a page inside the book that had gotten folded over. But then a happy surprise to discover that the book was signed! Nice. Turned all the grumps into mild annoyance and even that is fading fast.
While I’m on Margaret Atwood, have you all heard about the new project from Hogarth Shakespeare, which is part of Penguin Random House (I wish when those companies merged we had gotten a more interesting name like “Penguin House” or “Random Penguin”)? The project is to have well known writers retell Shakespeare plays in prose. All you Bard fans, don’t get your undies in a bunch no one is trying to replace him only have a little fun. I look upon the project like the Canongate Myth series, same basic story, modern take. If anything it might make people to read more Shakespeare.
Atwood is going to take on The Tempest. Howard Jacobson has chosen The Merchant of Venice. Anne Tyler will be doing The Taming of the Shrew. And Jeanette Winterson picked The Winter’s Tale. That’s it so far.
Thee series will launch in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The director of Hogarth Shakespeare has not found anyone who wants to try their hand at any of the big tragedies. Can’t say I blame anyone for not stepping up to those. However, if you could wave a magic wand and choose an author to do any of the plays, who might you choose? I bet Julian Barnes could do a good retelling of King Lear or Hamlet.
In the powerful finale to her too-close-for-comfort dystopian/apocalyptic trilogy (following the mind-blowingly awesome Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood), Atwood leaves us with an epic tale filled with survival, humor, and — ultimately — hope. If you haven't read Oryx and Crake yet, go buy it immediately. And save yourself a second [...]
The end of the world has become a popular theme over the last few years, spread by the popularity of vivid stories like The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games. If you want to write a book about our unhappy future, you should study the science and history of mass extinction.
We asked Newitz three questions for writers over email, and she responded with a long list of new ideas and reading suggestions for all authors writing about our future on this planet. All her answers follow below…
Oh, how I loved MaddAddam, the conclusion to Margaret Atwood’s series of books that began with Oryx and Crake. It had been awhile since I read the other two and I was a little worried my memory would be fuzzy. It was fuzzy on the details, which is a shame because the details are so very good. But for the big picture, I did okay especially since there is a lovely synopsis of the first two books helpfully provided at the start of MaddAddam
If you have read the first two books you will know that they both end at the same place. The story in Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood take place during the same time period but are just told from two different points of view, the insider view of Jimmy and the outsider view of Toby and God’s Gardeners. MaddAddam starts right where the first two end. Our narrator, once again is Toby, a member of the God’s Gardener group, late thirties to early forties, and one resilient woman. I love Toby. I often like characters in books, though it is never a requirement, however, I rarely love them or identify with them. But Toby, sometimes I thought, if things were different, I could totally be her. I’d want to be her. Or her best friend. We could pull weeds in the garden together and talk to the bees. We’d get on really well.
Here is an easy, non-spoiler way to tell you what the book is about:
There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.
All of these things are woven seamlessly throughout the book and you can see it all unfolding, and it is a wonderful and amazing thing. I didn’t notice them right away, but when it started to dawn on me what was going on it greatly increased my pleasure.
And then there is Atwood’s humor. I laughed out loud so many times, especially once the helpful Fuck was introduced. When you call out “Oh Fuck!” he rushes immediately to your aid. Toby had to make up a story about Fuck for the Crakers, the bioengineered and completely innocent humans created to populate the earth after a plague designed to kill the rest of the humans was unleashed on the world. Believe me, it’s a hoot. In fact, many of the interactions between the human humans and the Crakers are funny.
Given the end of the world as we know it scenario the book plays out you’d think it might be depressing. While there are deadly serious parts of the story, the book ends on a hopeful note. No, humans and the world will never be the same again, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
One of the scary things about the series of books though is that Atwood based everything in them on real technology and real-world events. She may have taken some of it beyond what is currently possible, but she does it in a logical way so the reader isn’t left thinking, “No way! That’s impossible!” You can see the seeds of much of it in her Flipboard MaddAddam’s World.
I am sad the series is done, I enjoyed it so much. I plan to read it all again sometime, one after the other, instead of having to wait a few years in between. Meanwhile, I look forward to finding out what’s up her sleeve for her next book.
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