friday roundup: old friends, why we need fairy tales, and the patron saint of getting out of here

Cinderella (public domain from wikimedia)

Friday again, and so soon. My refrigerator is even emptier than usual, and yes, I’m still finding sand pretty much everywhere from our beach day earlier this week. Later on, I’ll have to spend some time provisioning and sweeping, but first things first. On to the roundup:

old friends  There’s nothing like a book that feels like an old friend. I’ve been re-reading My Antonia, and, well, words fail me, … (happy sigh). I think I probably first read it in high school, and probably it was a book my parents gave me for Christmas, as they were very good about helping us create our own personal libraries from a young age (thanks Mom and Dad!). I think I re-read it after grad school, and I began craving it again last week. There’s nothing like reading a book you really love for the first time, but I have to say I’ve been able to enjoy many re-reads for the simple fact that, having delivered half my brain cells along with each child, I’m now at a deficit and forget half of the plot of every book I’ve ever read, even the books that are old friends. But I didn’t forget the beautiful writing, or the way My Antonia embodies the yearning I’ve always felt for the landscape of my youth, and for the seminal friendships of my life. Do you have books that are old friends in your life?

why we need fairy tales  Speaking of old friends, I’ve always loved fairy tales, the un-Disney-fied versions, especially the tales of the brothers Grimm. The original tales are, well, grim. And often grisly, heart-wrenching, or otherwise disturbing. Still, they endure. We remain held in their thrall. Why? Joan Acocella tells us why in her essay Once Upon a Time: The lure of the fairy tale in this week’s New Yorker. She says we value fairy tales because

they do not detain us with hope but simply validate what is. Even people who have never known hunger, let alone a murderous step-mother, still have a sense — from dreams, from books, from news broadcasts — of utter blackness, the erasure of safety and comfort and trust. Fairy tales tell us that such knowledge, or fear, is not fantastic but realistic.

To which I say, Yes! Fairy tales are important because they allow suffering and horror to be suffering and horror. They allow that dark corner of human experience to exist. They don’t turn away. I, for one, am grateful for this element of fairy tales.

the patron saint of getting out of here  Reader, do yourself a favor and go listen to Sally Rosen Kindred reading her poem “Tiger Lily Speaks” at the Little Patuxent Review website, and then read her craft notes, too (she reads one of her poems about Tinkerbell — also well worth the listen!). I’m a sucker for any poem/story that gives voice to the voiceless, or almost-voiceless, in existing literature. Sally’s poem allows Tiger Lily (from Peter Pan) to be, as she says, “more than a smudge on the page.” She brings Tiger Lily into modern times, and gives her an agency that she never had in the original story. Empowerment, Reader! The final line of the poem is exquisite — I won’t spoil it for you here. I’m in love with this poem, and you can be, too, if you just go listen.

Ok. The time has come. There are three people, all still (barely) shorter than me, who want their breakfast. Have a wonderful weekend, Reader, and thanks as always for tuning in.

9 thoughts on “friday roundup: old friends, why we need fairy tales, and the patron saint of getting out of here

  1. Oh my goodness, how interesting that you’re rereading My Antonia! I started rereading it myself this summer (though I haven’t gotten too far yet). One of the very first book reports I remember writing in school was on My Antonia, so I wanted to read it again now as a 44-year-old to try and figure out what attracted me to it in the first place, to investigate how my interests have evolved–or not–over the years. Happy reading! ~Karen

    • Every time I re-read after a number of years, I find I’m engaging in the text in a whole new way because of the experiences I’ve had since last reading something. It’s one of the things I love about literature — it keeps on giving all throughout a life. Happy reading to you, too!

  2. Wonderful thoughts and observations regarding fairy tales! I was lucky enough to have received a complete collection of the brothers Grimm fairy tales when I was very young, and have been fascinated with the stories ever since.

    I have not read My Antonia, but I probably should. I should read more classics in general, I suppose, but the book I keep re-reading is Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson, and I am always re-reading my collection of Raymond Carver.

    Okay, I’m off to listen to the poem about Tiger Lily. I probably should have listened first so I could comment, but doing things backwards is fairly typical of me. Ha ha.

    • Raymond Carver – genius. I have to be careful about reading him, though. Sometimes his stories freak me out (not in a bad way, but still… and it’s only because he’s so good, right, that he can freak people out).

      • I agree! They always leave me just a little bit wrecked. I that’s what I like though. They’re haunting….and yes, I think because he’s so good. On the surface, you’re like, “wait, what’s the big deal about thawing pork chops?” then you make these connections and it’s really kind of incredible.

  3. Ah, My Antonia… A great choice! I re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God a few summers ago and realized what a rich experience age brings to a re-read. I am trying for a new classic each semester. Attacking Tess right now. Have you read it?

    • Hey, old friend! I agree that age and the experience that comes with it enrich our experience as readers. Haven’t read Tess. Let me know how you like it. Thanks for reading.

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