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by Kerrie Mills

7 Apr 2011


I’ve recently been re-reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the unabridged version, and I’m inclined to go stick my head in the oven, now.

I do not wish to shoot messengers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, here. They clearly did their best to faithfully preserve the rich folktale tradition of their native heath. My question, after re-reading this fine old classic of my childhood—during which its utter lack of suitability for anyone under about age 35 is becoming steadily clearer—is why they thought this was a good idea? Or, perhaps more to the point, just what the hell was going on in those parts, back then?

by Kerrie Mills

16 Feb 2011


In order to understand Oz fully, you have to realise that L. Frank Baum did not by any means set out to create the jewel-toned MGM utopia that is his legacy.

The Wizard of Oz was originally a one-off—a determinedly mundane fairyland, designed deliberately as an antidote to the vivid and grotesque European classics. (We will skip lightly over the fact that The Wizard of Oz nevertheless has a body count in the dozens, largely of animals who get their heads chopped off by the Tin Woodman. It’s entirely possible that in Grimm, he would’ve carefully kept the severed heads to put in the Wicked Witch’s bed later, where they would recite doggerel predicting her gruesome demise. So it works out.)

The first in the sequel was intended as a cash-in once the original became a hit stage play, and the others were written pretty much as a favour to the eager little fans—partly because, frankly, L. Frank Baum needed the money too much to refuse them.

by Kerrie Mills

20 Jan 2011


I’m not ordinarily a huge fan of novelists that use real historical figures. Even if the author is skilled enough to incorporate fact into fiction without coming off as annoyingly arch about their own cleverness, their affection inevitably starts to come off as blatant hero-worship, what I believe is known these days as a ‘Canon Sue’.

This happens to Bruce Alexander’s Sir John Fielding series after awhile. The first three or four, before Jeremy becomes fairly convinced that his boss is God or the closest earthly equivalent, are still very readable. When you then start slamming Benjamin Franklin, though… you’d better be wielding more than “younger brother of the guy who wrote Tom Jones”.

by Peta Jinnath Andersen

3 Sep 2010


Monica Bellucci as Mirror Queen in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Fairy tales are a familiar part of most childhoods. All over the world, parents tell their children about Cinderella or Cendrillon or Yeh-Hsien or even the Egyptian Cinderella, Rhodopis. At least, they used to. According to a January 2009 article in The Telegraph, parents are skipping the once popular tales in favor of simpler, safer stories such as Eric Carle’s 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Why?

Because fairy tales are scary, not PC, and outdated.

by Joseph Fisher

27 Aug 2010


Peta Jinnath Andersen’s excellent PopMatters piece on the utility of placing advertisements in books effectively challenged the notion that such a possibility is a recent marketing development. It also, for what it’s worth, forced me to rethink my own objections to in-text advertising—objections that were not much more sophisticated than something along the lines of “No way, man. I’ll never support writers who sell out, man.” Not very sophisticated, to say the least.

When I initially read Andersen’s article, I could not help but balk at, for instance, the references to Apple products that abound in Stieg Larsson’s The-Girl-Who-Does-Stuff series. My reservations about what I perceived to be really clunky writing—above and beyond the obvious product placement gestures—were steeped in classic academic condescension: “classic” works of literature stand The Test of TimeTM and do not require such obvious connections to the “real world” outside of them in order for them to be relevant. Larsson is pandering, I thought. However, as I stepped back from that decidedly uncritical point of view, I realized 1) that I was being a snob and 2) that product placement/advertising in literature, at least in the contemporary era, has a fairly extensive, if often unacknowledged, history.

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