“They were bound like two dogs with their tails tied together, unable to move without having some opposite effect on the other, unable to live a single restful minute without feeling the inevitable tug.”
—Maile Meloy, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
“It’s not that I wanted to be married. It’s that I wanted a Marriage Equivalent, although I never really knew exactly what that was, and often suspected there was no such thing.”
—Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
Snowy © Dina Goldstein
Kate Bernheimer, editor
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales
Penguin, 2010. 608 pp.
Adults who were once children tend to agree: we are who we are because of fairy tales. Once upon a time, they were the clearest — and most just-seeming — of all narratives, even if they weren’t entirely real. People got what they deserved. Actions led to results. The wicked were punished; the good were rewarded. The young, beautiful princess was intrinsically good; the old, gnarled crone was irrefutably evil. These stories were more than mere guides to the world as we saw it; they were totemic and prophetic.
I remember a beautifully illustrated anthology, its cover embossed and its pages thick and important — remember feeling there could be no more important text in the world. It would tell me everything I needed to know about how I should behave, and what would happen to me if I didn’t. When I grew up, my faith in fairy tales was punctured; the tales’ true meanings struck me like slaps to the face. “Little Red Riding Hood” was not about the threat of strangers, but an allegory about menstruation; the intimations of class warfare in “Cinderella” shatter the romance of glass slippers; Snow White’s tortured relationship with her jealous stepmother could make any child distrust a future step-parent. The world of adult experience begins to cloud our readings of even the loveliest and lightest of fairy tales — until we remember that these stories have always been written by adults who’d come to know the world’s shadows, its imperfections, its disappointments. After all, the life stories of Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimms, and Charles Perrault were anything but fairy tales.
“I merely say that all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy, Benedetto Croce, or The Diary of the Forgotten Man. To say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob, and a juvenile at the art of living.”
— Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
“There is so much hurt in this game of searching for a mate, of testing, trying. And you realize suddenly that you forgot it was a game, and turn away in tears.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
“Why did dogs make one want to cry? There was something so quiet and hopeless about their sympathy. Jasper, knowing something was wrong, as dogs always do. Trunks being packed. Cars being brought to the door. Dogs standing with drooping tails, dejected eyes. Wandering back to their baskets in the hall when the sound of the car dies away.”
— Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca