Books 8/9/05

I finished Mirror Mirror on the Wall, and ended up with a grand total of three essays I just could not bring myself to finish. Just not my cup of hot chocolate. The number of essays that I loved is far more than three however, with the number that were just ok hovering right in the middle.

Linda Gray Sexton’s essay, Bones and Black Puddings:Revisiting “The Juniper Tree” is one of the most heartbreaking readings of a fairy tale-heck, ANYTHING- I’ve ever read. Sexton is the daughter of Anne Sexton, a brilliant and very troubled writer, who wrote a series of poems based on fairy tales called Transformations. (Which I highly reccomend.) Anne Sexton had severe bouts of depression, coupled with what was most likely catagorized as psychosis, and Linda Gray Sexton grew up amist her mother’s brilliance and terrifying madness. Her essay is a meditation on the lesser known fairy tale The Juniper Tree, as it compares to her own experience, and as she writes, her story and the story of the fairy tale become irevocably intertwined. Her descriptions of her mother’s slips into madness are chilling, as is her account of reading her mother’s old letters (as part of her role as her literary executor) and coming across one in which she (her mother) detailed trying to choke her (Linda) in her crib. That she (Linda) was able to come through these experiences as a compassionate, functioning soul is a fairy tale in and of itself. I can never do this essay justice in my description, it really must, and should be read.

Maria Flook’s The Rope Bridge to Sex is also heartbreaking. In it, Flook looks at the reality of the fairy tale conceit of young girls leaving their homes. (Gretel, Snow White, etc.) She uses her family, in which all the girls leave in their mid teens, either running away or getting married, as an example of how this plays out in real life.

Fern Kupfer looks at the reality of being a step-mother in the exceptional Trust, and Connie Porter sheds new light on the meanings of hair in Rapunzel Across Time and Space.

Over all I highly enjoyed this collection.

I’m currently reading Constant Reader, a collection of the sublime Mrs. Dorothy Parker’s literary reviews from The New Yorker. She’s hilarious, and I wish I could be as witty and insightful as she. Her most humorous columns are those where she’s writing about a book she didn’t like, as she goes to any length imaginable to avoid writing about the book itself. My favorite column, however, is about a book she loves, an author she loves. In it, she apologizes for a previous column about Men without Women, wherein she wrote that Hemingway “is, to me, the greatest living writer of short stories.” She then accounts how she recieved a letter pointing out the equally brilliant Seven Men by Max Beerbohm. And so, in penance for her flippant hyperbole, she states,

“But it would be all right, wouldn’t it, if I amended my remarks to read: “Ernest Hemingway is, to me, the greatest living American writer of short stories”? Or maybe this would do better: “Ernest Hemingway is, to me, the greatest living American short-story writer who lives in Paris most of the time but goes to Switzerland to ski, served with the Italian Army during the World War, has been a prize -fighter and has fought bulls, is coming to New York in the spring, is in his early thirties, has a black moustache, and is still waiting for that two hundred francs I lost to him at bridge.” Or maybe after all, the only thing to do is play it safe and whisper: “Ernest Hemingway is, to me, a good writer.”

Amen, Mrs. Parker, Amen.

Current total: 59
Just Finished: Mirror, Mirror On the Wall ed. by Kate Bernheimer
Currently Reading: Constant Reader by Dorothy Parker

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