A Wild Swan and other tales

A Wild Swan and other talesNot the usual type of book I read but am willing to try anything written by this author To my surprise I enjoyed it very much Taking many of our beloved fairytale and giving them a very inventive modern twist was pure entertainment Many were extremely amusing, so very clever But while Cunningham s wit and originality were in fine display I missed his ingenious plots and his expansiveness that is adequately displayed in his novels Still very entertaining, a quick read that was than worth my time. Fairy Tales For Our Times From The Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Of The HoursA Poisoned Apple And A Monkey S Paw With The Power To Change Fate A Girl Whose Extraordinarily Long Hair Causes Catastrophe A Man With One Human Arm And One Swan S Wing And A House Deep In The Forest, Constructed Of Gumdrops And Gingerbread, Vanilla Frosting And Boiled Sugar In A Wild Swan And Other Tales, The People And The Talismans Of Lands Far, Far Away The Mythic Figures Of Our Childhoods And The Source Of So Much Of Our Wonder Are Transformed By Michael Cunningham Into Stories Of Sublime Revelation Here Are The Moments That Our Fairy Tales Forgot Or Deliberately Concealed The Years After A Spell Is Broken, The Rapturous Instant Of A Miracle Unexpectedly Realized, Or The Fate Of A Prince Only Half Cured Of A Curse The Beast Stands Ahead Of You In Line At The Convenience Store, Buying Smokes And A Slim Jim, His Devouring Smile Aimed At The Cashier A Malformed Little Man With A Knack For Minor Acts Of Wizardry Goes To Disastrous Lengths To Procure A Child A Loutish And Lazy Jack Prefers Living In His Mother S Basement To Getting A Job, Until The Day He Trades A Cow For A Handful Of Magic Beans Reimagined By One Of The Most Gifted Storytellers Of His Generation, And Exquisitely Illustrated By Yuko Shimizu, Rarely Have Our Bedtime Stories Been This Dark, This Perverse, Or This True Fairy tale retellings are one of my things, so I had to pick this up when I came across it on the library shelf I haven t read anything else by this Pulitzer Prize winning author, so I can t compare this to his other writings.The stories collected here are very consistent in feel throughout Each takes a fairy tale or other well known tale , and injects it with a dash of the modern day without wholly removing its classic elements , and twists the story a bit in order to accentuate the ironic, and perhaps make a bitter comment on humanity There aren t a lot of happy endings to be found here.Dis Enchant.This very brief piece on the theme of ordinary people being resentful and jealous of the extraordinary sets the tone of the book very well If you like this piece, I d recommend continuing If you don t the book might not be for you.A Wild SwanBased on The Wild Swans happens as it did in the Andersen tale the brothers transformed, the sister who works to rescue them from the curse But the author focuses on what happened to the one brother who was left with a swan s wing transposing him in his trauma from the fantasy castle to a contemporary setting of bars full of alcoholic, depressed victims of curses.Crazy Old LadyBased on Hansel and GretelThe woman who focused on sex and good times while all her friends were getting married and settling down always dreamed of being a Mrs Robinson style cougar in her later years To her dismay, as she ages, she realized the boys just aren t interested A bit unhinged, she decides to build a candy and gingerbread cottage What eventually happens mirrors what happened to the witch in Hansel and Gretel a bit closely than she expected But the kids who visit her are no innocents.JackedBased on Jack and the BeanstalkHere, the classic story is infused with plenty of authorial commentary on topics such as how very foolish it is to entrust your last cow to an imbecilic son who d trade it to a stranger for a handful of beans It also comments on the very questionable morality of everything Jack does, although his burglaries and thefts certainly allow he and his mother to buy private planes, remote island, and limited edition Murakami Louis Vuitton handbags PoisonedBased on Snow WhiteAfter rescuing Snow White from her glass coffin, the prince develops a pervy obsession.A Monkey s PawBased on the W.W Jacobs story, of course The twist is What if they didn t use the third wish to send away the rotted corpse of their son What if they invited him back anyways The story becomes a disturbing digression on the erosion of happiness.Little ManBased on RumplestiltskinI ve read other positive representations of the titular ugly little man of the Rumplestiltskin story Here, he is consumed by the desire to have a child to be a good father and to pass on his knowledge to a new generation His efforts to help a hapless girl spin straw into gold are motivated largely by kindness But we all know what happens to a dream deferred or denied.Steadfast, TinBased on Hans Christian Andersen s Steadfast Tin SoldierA modern relationship is depicted here, which may mirror the tragic fairy tale in certain respects At least, the woman in the relationship seems to think it does and her daughter explicitly thinks that her mother used telling her the story as a way to try to explain her parents relationship.The story rather deftly questions the concept of destiny and true love, as it describes a troubled but eventually steadfast marriage BeastsBased on Beauty and the BeastOoh, this was a twist on the story that I hadn t ever actually seen before And I ve read a LOT of takes on this story I thought it worked really well, too I might even say it was Angela Carter worthy Here, many events proceed as expected, with the additional information that Beauty herself might ve been less meek and selfless, and hopeless and frustrated than we thought She professes her love for the Beast and breaks the spell but have you ever considered WHY someone might ve cast such a spell on the Beast Her HairBased on RapunzelBeginning where the story usually ends, this shows us a blind man at the fulfillment of his long and arduous quest to find his love The short piece quickly becomes a metaphor about how we all sometimes hide certain things in relationships, to keep others happy.Ever AfterI guess Cunningham didn t want to end the book on a low note, because this original fairy tale of an arranged royal marriage that works out surprisingly well is a love letter to life, with all its quotidian warts and travails.Note The illustrations here, by Yuko Shimizu, are exquisite Simple, stark black and white, like something from a less perverse Aubrey Beardsley I couldn t help feeling like they belonged to a less earthy, transcendent collection of fairy tales, though. J.K Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Jim Henson, Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro , Doctor Who , retellings 10 , Michael Cunningham , A Wild Swan And Other Tales original , 11 PopCode , Yuko Shimizu ,.A Wild Swan EDIT PopCode Cunningham presents some new spins on beloved classics with this short collection of retellings, updates and continuations of folk and fairy tales for adults.There s some fun and provocative stuff here crazy cat ladies who build gingerbread houses, ne er do wells and their beanstalks, closet necrophiliacs who wake sleeping princesses Most are worthy of three stars, with a few fivers scattered about I truly love the last tale an original offering about how we can make our own fairy tales come true by noticing the magic in our every day lives At least that s what I thought it was about The illustrations by Yuko Shimizu are truly lovely I d rate this 3.5 stars.The idea of putting twists on the fairy tales we know and love isn t a new one Many books have given these familiar tales a modern spin, a macabre tone, even made them politically correct, as the originals were decidedly not In A Wild Swan and Other Tales , Michael Cunningham, one of my favorite authors, tries to humanize the tales a bit, modernizing them, and imbuing many with emotion and character development than the originals offered He looks at some familiar tales Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and others I wasn t familiar with All in all, it s an interesting exercise, one which I think had mixed results.As I ve said many a time before, if a story hits me emotionally without making me feel manipulated, it definitely resonates The stories I liked best in this collection either moved or amused me, sometimes both My favorites included Jacked, in which Jack of beanstalk fame is a lazy man child whose encounters with the giant provokes intriguing feelings in the giant s wife Little Man, an amusing and moving take on Rumpelstiltskin Beasts, an interesting twist on Beauty and the Beast Steadfast Tin, a story about a couple which reminded me of How I Met Your Mother than any fairy tale and my favorite, Ever After, a moving look at the idea of happily ever after.I love the way Michael Cunningham tells a story, and I ve always found that characterization is among his many strengths, so those stories in which the characters were front and center worked best A few of the stories were odd, and one was told in such a way that I wasn t exactly sure who was narrating it or what was happening.Overall, this was an intriguing and worthwhile read If you like fairy tales, give this a try it s not quite the tales you know, but they ll definitely get you thinking See all of my reviews at Lentamente il principe si volta offrendole un sorriso lascivo e bestiale un sorriso predatore e famelico Nonostante l avvenenza, qualcosa nel suo volto non quadra Gli occhi restano selvatici La bocca sembra ancora adatta a squarciare la gola di un cervo Potrebbe quasi essere il fratello pi giovane e pi bello molto pi bello della bestia, come se i genitori avessero dato alla luce prima un bambino deforme e poi uno stupendo, perfettamente proporzionatoDevo fare due preamboli.1 Il primo molto breve consiste in un unica affermazione cos come credo nel valore delle riletture altrettanto sono convinta del merito delle riscritture.2 Il secondo riguarda la mia modalit di lettura Dopo aver strigliato una delle mie figlie che aveva l abitudine di leggere due o tre libri per volta oramai qualche anno che ho, invece, scoperto di sbagliarmi alla grande Cos come ognuno hai suoi ritmi del sonno o di altro anche la lettura va liberata da standard impositivi Dunque, per farla breve, oggi Dopo le dovute ritrattazioni con mia figlia che nel frattempo ha optato per la lettura saltuaria leggo parallelamente dai tre ai cinque libri Una modalit in cui mi sento molto a mio agio ma in cui, nel tempo, riconosco la pecca non tanto di un eventuale confusione perlomeno un eventualit che non mi ancora successa ma di un impossibile obiettivit di giudizio Mi spiego meglio se fra i tre o pi libri che sto portando avanti ce n uno o due che preferisco giocoforza l altro o gli altri finiscono in seconda linea.Stando cos le cose, per quanto riguarda il libro in questione di Cunningham l ho letto con un interesse moderato riconoscendone, tuttavia, un valore superiore che merita una futura rilettura.L autore rimodella favole note e meno note in una chiave cinica Finita l infanzia e, riaprendo il libro a cui da bambini ci si aggrappava speranzosi che la vita sia prodiga di lieti fine, si scopre, invece, che il re assolutamente nudo.Dunque lo sguardo adulto scova e mette in risalto le piaghe purulente del principe di Raperonzolo scaraventato dalla strega gi dal dirupo La maturit riguarda alla vecchia di Hansel e Gretel e vede davanti a i suoi occhi una vecchia pazza che sidata a una carriera di zoccolagginementre i due bambini sono cresciuti e diventati una giovane coppia psicopatica.L incanto dell infanzia diventa disincanto Principi e principesse state attenti La magia di una penna vendica la vostra sfacciata perfezione Il lieto fine ha le ore contate Da rileggereSe certe manifestazioni di perfezione possono essere macchiate, o sfigurate, o costrette a percorrere la terra con pantofole di ferro, il resto di noi si ritrover a vivere in un mondo meno arduo un mondo di aspettative pi ragionevoli un mondo in cui le parole bellezza e potenza potranno essere associate a una pi ampia schiera di donne e di uomini Un mondo in cui gli elogi, i complimenti non siano accompagnati dalla sottintesa disponibilit a chiudere un occhio su uno o due difettucci, su qualche piccola, insignificante deficienza.Chiedetevelo, per favore Se poteste lanciare un maleficio sull atleta spaventosamente affascinante e sulla modella di intimo che lo ama, o sulla coppia del cinema il cui DNA sommato rischia di generare bambini di un altra specie addirittura lo fareste La loro aura di felicit e prosperit , i loro orizzonti sconfinati, vi irritano, almeno un po Ogni tanto vi mandano su tutte le furie Se la risposta no, tanto di cappello.Se s , invece, ci sono incantesimi e antichi sortilegi, ci sono formule da pronunciare a mezzanotte, durante certe fasi della luna, presso laghi senza fondo nascosti nel folto dei boschi, o in segreti antri sotterranei, o in qualsiasi crocicchio dove si incontrino tre strade sorprendente quanto sia facile impararle, queste maledizioniIllustrazioni di Yuko Shimizu. I spotted this slim book while browsing the new shelves of the library one evening I feel drawn to retellings of fairy tales, though so many end up disappointing me Because I enjoy Cunningham s writing, I didn t think twice about checking out this book.I wasn t excited about any of the stories until I got to the seventh out of eleven , the story titled Little Man Rumpelstiltskin , easily my favorite, which has a perfect reason to use second person narration With it, Cunningham does one of the things I feel a retelling should do i.e., get inside the head of a character we haven t heard from before Its ending, one fairly long paragraph, was so exquisite, drawing our attention to how someone like him in real life could turn into the person he has become, that I read it several times The next story, Steadfast Tin , is another that used a twisting of the genre effectively, bringing the story into relevance to a modern day couple, while cleverly filling in the reader who might not be familiar with the HC Andersen tale of The Steadfast Tin Soldier The story after that, Beasts , frustrated me with its standard retelling of Beauty and the Beast , until I arrived at the ending and the reason for it all became clear I had been as seduced as Beauty was.I should also mention A Monkey s Paw , a very good story I ve just never been a fan of the original by W.W Jacobs whose title contains the definite article.The illustrations by Yuko Shimizu are ethereal and disturbing and I guess because I m not a visual person, I didn t realize, till I later looked at her website, that I ve encountered her work before.Probably of a 3.5 stars kind of book, but I ve rounded up, because I can t stop thinking of that paragraph. This is one of the most enjoyable collection of short stories I ve read since Angela Carter s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories If anything, the characters here where written with impact and depth Carter is a master at ambiance, but Cunningham mastered character creation in short form here.The illustrations are absolutely haunting.I highly recommend this one Michael Cunningham is the author of The Hours, a book inspired by Virginia Woolf s Mrs Dalloway which won him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was later adapted into a successful movie I have never read the book nor seen the film, though I really enjoyed the musical score by Philip Glass, which might be his finest work for film you can listen to it here I don t think you will be disappointed A Wild Swan is his first collection of short stories, and one which I approached with certain interest and curiosity it is a collection of fairy tales told anew A surprising subject for someone who has been writing mostly realistic fiction, I was very interested me how the author would approach hi subject and in the end can t help but be disappointedThis is a slim collection less than 150 pages long and yet includes 11 stories, complete with black and white illustrations by Yuko Shimuzu Cunningham takes classic stories such as Snow White, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast and Jack and the Bean Stalk, and tells them again in his own way in a different setting, or from another perspective Fairytale retellings are nothing new, but they are something entirely new for this particular author and it shows Aside for two exceptions, I found none of these new stories to be either particularly impressive or memorable they read like exercises in writing, a way for the author to try himself out in something that he has not attempted before It is not a bad thing in itself, but the end result is not always ready to be presented to a wider audience Such exercises are often hidden in the proverbial drawer, where they await better times which often don t come.The first one isA Monkey s Paw , which is of course based onThe Monkey s Paw , the famous story by W W JacobsThe Monkey s Pawhas been adapted into other media and parodied multiple times Including a memorable episode of The Simpsons , Cunningham s spin is creative enough to be interesting and at the same time just short enough to not overstay its welcome The real gem of the collection is Little Man, which is the retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, told in the second person from the perspective of the imp In the original, as collected centuries ago by the Grimm brothers, a miller brags to the King of his realm that his daughter can spin straw into gold the King throws the poor girl into a locked room full of straw and demands that she turn it all into gold before morning, or else she will be beheaded Rumpelstiltskin is the mysterious figure who appears out of nowhere, offering her a deal he will spin the straw into gold for exchange of something of hers First, he takes her necklace when the King sees a room full of gold and locks her in an even bigger room, demanding gold, he takes her ring when the next day the King says that he will marry her if she will turn another room of straw into gold, the imp demands their firstborn child.In the original tale just appears out of nowhere, and not as a savior he essentially blackmails the girl into giving him what he wants, knowing full well that these are offers that she can t refuse if she wants to live in some versions of the stories the imp begins to spin gold despite the girl protesting that she has nothing to pay him at the last day, and tells her that he will take her first child, leaving her horrified The original tale offers no information about the imp, his character or motivation we can see him as unlikable, but we do not know why he is so, or why he does what he does This is why Cunningham s story works so well it gives voice to someone who did not have one before, and unexpectedly flips the tables on morality of the characters Rumpelstiltskin becomes a sympathetic character and very believably so, and his portrayal as of a being filled with deep sadness and loneliness, consumed by deep longing for a child is touching and memorable This is, to put it simply, a good story, and deserves praise as such.Still, two stories do not exactly cut it, and despite enjoying them I can t recommend the collection as a whole If I was to describe A Wild Swan with one word, it would be unnecessary one or two stories are not enough to save it If you are interested in fairy tales adapted into contemporary prose, look no further than Philip Pullman s brilliant Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm A New English Versiont, which treats the source material with respect and courtesy.

Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours winner of the Pen Faulkner Award Pulitzer Prize , Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non fiction book, Land s End A Walk in Provincetown His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014 He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.

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  • Kindle Edition
  • 144 pages
  • A Wild Swan and other tales
  • Michael Cunningham
  • English
  • 03 May 2019

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