Books 8/6/04

I started Fast Talking Dames, but apparently I’m not in a non-fiction mood. So I moved on. Black Heart, Ivory Bones, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling is one of a series of collections of adult fairy tales. Not NC-17 adult, just more grown up. The consistency of quality is really good, and the stories are enjoyable, provocative takes on stories we all know (and some we might not, actually). I love deconstructionist takes on stories, and these are great. “Big Hair” is Rapunzel set in the world of child beauty pageants, “Goldilocks tells All” is the story of the 3 bears told in a Jerry Springer-esque milleu. There’s even a Neil Gaiman contribution, but I was kind of disapointed by it- for someone who deconstructs fairy tales and myths in almost everything he does, I was looking forward to a great story, not just a poem.
I’m supposed to be reading Gilligan’s Wake by Tom Carson, and I will next, but I got distracted by a thin little book at the bookstore called Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The concept of the book looked charming- there is a island named after Nevin Nollop (the man who created the phrase that contains all the letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy brown dog”) . The residents love language, and write beautiful letters to each other. (The book is an epistolary novel, made up entirely of correspondence from and to various citizens.) One day letters begin to fall from the statue honoring Nollop and his sentence, and the Council decides that this is a sign that Nollop no longer wishes those letters to be used in writing or speech. As the letters fall off the statue, they are no longer used in the correspondence in the book. Charming idea, should be cute and funny, right?
Wrong. I have rarely ever read a book so overwhelming in it’s sense of helpless dread. As the citizens start to realize the extent of what they’ve allowed to happen, a tightening opressiveness fills their correspondence. It’s a powerful statement on what happens when people allow rights or expression to be taken away simply because they don’t want to put up a fight- there comes a time when fighting is no longer possible. It’s also a heartbreaking peek into societies where expression is controlled. I can’t stop thinking about this book. It’s a short, powerful read, I highly recommend it.
I’m currently reading 15th Annual The Year’s best Fantasy and Horror, edited (again) by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
These women are great anthology editors, they and Martin Greenberg never fail to put out fantasy/horror anthologies that I really enjoy. I’m only about halfway through this one, and the overall quality of the stories is quite high. The horror stories are especially good- quite creepy.

Current total: 78
Just finished: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Reading now: The Year’s best Fantasy and Horror, 15th annual collection- ed. Datlow & Windling

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