Let me begin by saying that I’m not particularly “into” fairy tales. I read the children’s-book versions of a number of them to my children and granddaughter, and, of course, we watched the Disney movie versions of them as well. But, that’s about the extent of my knowledge of fairy tales.
A while back I ran across a beautifully bound copy of the fairy tales that were collected long ago by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – the Brothers Grimm. Loving beautiful books, and having a granddaughter who is, so I thought, just about the right age to enjoy the original stories, I bought the book.
I was delighted to see that the book contained lots of the tales I was familiar with, but I soon – very soon – noticed some terribly troubling differences. These were not the charming stories I read to my children and granddaughter – stories that began with, “Once upon a time . . .,” and ended with, “. . . and they lived happily ever after.” No, these stories were distinctly different. For instance Cinderella is, indeed, about a wonderful young girl who has an evil stepmother with two daughters who are, “vile and black of heart,” but they’re beautiful, not plain and ugly. The slipper Cinderella leaves behind is made of gold not glass, and her stepsisters mutilate their feet in order to get the slipper to fit when the prince comes calling. When he sees the blood, he realizes what they’ve done, and sends them home. He finally finds Cinderella, and marries her (so far so good), but on the way into the church birds peck out one eye of each of the evil stepsisters, and on the way out they peck out the other. “And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.” That’s how it really ends.
If I read stories like that to my granddaughter, she would have nightmares, and I would be in big trouble with her parents and her grandmother. I won’t go there. I’ve got too much to lose even if the book is beautiful, and even if these are the real stories, not bland imitations of the originals.
There’s something else I need to tell you. At the time I bought the book by the Brothers Grimm, I bought an equally beautiful book containing the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. I haven’t read anything from it yet principally because I’m afraid I won’t like what I find. At some point, however, I’ll have to take a deep breath, and check it out.
Keep in touch; I’ll let you know what I find.
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Snoopy was a plagiarist. That’s right, the opening words of his never-completed novel are actually part of the opening sentence of a real book entitled Paul Clifford written by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in 1830. The entire opening sentence is, “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Even we non-English majors can tell that this is a serious example of a run-on sentence.
Since 1982 the folks at San Jose State University have sponsored a contest to find the person who can create the most outrageous opening sentence in various categories of fiction (such as Adventure, Children’s Literature, and Crime), and the results are absolutely priceless. You’ve got to wonder about the writers who come up with these outrageous, and outrageously funny entries. But, don’t worry about their mental health, instead, have a good laugh by reading the 2012 winning entries.
Here is a link to The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest homepage.
And don’t miss the entries by winners from past years.
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The Word & Film website features a list of the 10 best adaptations of adventure novels over the past 20 years. You’ve probably seen the movies, but have you read the books?
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Are you in a book club? If so, do you know what other book clubs are reading? Well, you can find out by going to Book Movement a site that polls book club members to see what they are reading. Each week the site updates the list.
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Sometime fictional characters read real books, so Flavorwire has compiled a list of some surprising bibliophiles (including the Simpsons and Don Draper of Mad Men) and their often impressive reading lists.
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Would Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s have been as appealing if the main character had been named Connie Gustafson rather than Holly Golightly? Well, that almost happened. Also, Sherlock Holmes was almost Sherringford Holmes, and his assistant was almost Ormond Sacker. Those are a few of Mental Floss’ 17 examples of literary characters who were almost named something else. You will enjoy the entire list along with lots of additional tidbits of trivia.
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What happens to the millions of books that don’t sell as well as hoped (even at discount prices) and to those like Imagine by Jonah Lehrer that are “pulled” because the author has been discredited? These days the paper is recycled. An interesting article in New York magazine gives a brief history about paper and the book publishing industry.
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Nancy Pearl, one of my favorite authors who writes books about books (Book Lust, and More Book Lust are examples), says that she only completes about one of every 12 books she begins reading. She says that we should read a certain number of pages, and then decide if we are interested enough in the book to complete it. Here is the formula she recommends using: If you are 50 years old or younger, read 50 pages, and then decide if you want to read the whole book. If you are over 50 read a number of pages equal to 100 minus your age, and then decide. So, if you are 65, read 35 pages, and then decide.