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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror


The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

evaluări:
4/5 (39 evaluări)
Lungime:
5 hours
Lansat:
Jun 5, 2018
ISBN:
9781978607767
Format:
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Descriere

A collection of darkly playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales (but with a feminist spin) that find the sinister in the familiar and the familiar in the alien—from Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts From Jane Eyre.

From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from her beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, "The Merry Spinster" takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and her best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature has become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg's eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg's boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg's oeuvre will delight in her unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

Lansat:
Jun 5, 2018
ISBN:
9781978607767
Format:
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Despre autor

Mallory Ortberg is the cofounder of The Toast blog and the author of Texts from Jane Eyre. She lives in Oakland, California.

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  • (4/5)
    I dug into this book, eagerly anticipating dark twists on familiar tales. I was not disappointed. Although the stories are not consistently top-notch throughout, the number of very good tales easily outweighs the few that I thought were a bit dissatisfying in their endings. From the uncoiling dread that seeps through "The Rabbit" to the horrifying violence in "Cast your Bread Upon the Waters," Ortberg had me rethinking familiar fairy tales and children's books. Perhaps what I'd read as a child was more subversive than had seemed at first glance. It wasn't too difficult to be convinced that perhaps reading between the lines of some of these children's tales would reveal the darkness that Ortberg brings to the surface in all its macabre glory.
  • (4/5)
    This was much creepier and affecting than I expected. Having read a lot of humor from this author, I maybe should have but did not realize he would be so well suited to this kind of absurd, anxious horror. While some stories are much stronger than others, the whole collection is worth a read.
  • (4/5)
    These stories range from amusing to satisfying to very unsettling. Quite the collection, although definitely not fit for a bedtime read aloud for sweet dreams! The Velveteen Rabbit story especially screwed me up.
  • (3/5)
    Book received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    This was a fun book to read, it you like to read unusual and twisted stories. Ortenburg doesn't retell familiar fairy tales; she takes the familiar and gives it her own unique spin using humor, integrating bits and pieces of other literature such as the Bible and folktales, Female characters play strong roles in her tales; no damsels in distress here.
    On the other hand, it took me awhile to finish this book because I would put it down and walk away, not in any rush to pick it back up. Some of the stories grabbed my attention, while others left me not really caring one way or the other what happened.
    Overall, this book, for me, rates between 3 and 4 stars.
    Overall, though, I'm glad I read it, even if it did take me awhile. I like the unusual and twisted telling of these tales; I think the ones that gave me the most difficulty involved stories I hadn't ever read. At the end of the book, Ortenburg includes a list of the original works she based her stories on and the list did include tales I hadn't read before.
  • (3/5)
    I picked this up based on the cover art, title and back page description alone. It's a fast read - the author puts a creative and, at times, feminist spin upon classic fairy tales. It's a fast read, but not a particularly enthralling one. While some of the stories are a little off to the point of being disquieting, but I wouldn't categorize them as chilling or unsettling, much less horror.The Daughter Cells (a twist on The Little Mermaid) was my favorite because, IMO, its reimagining was so detailed. The Rabbit and Good Fences were solidly told, if more obvious. A couple of the stories - Incident Report and Cast Your Bread seemed underdeveloped compared to the others.It wasn't until Six Coffins that the author's feminist retellings of these stories (originally all authored by males, I believe). At times, the author switches up the pronouns (sometimes referring to a daughter as a she, sometimes a he; or a female character marrying a male character and getting the choice of the 'wife' or 'husband' role, etc). I think the author intended a statement on gender neutrality (or fluidity?), but the overall effect is unnecessarily confusing and adds little. It came across as more of an affect than a POV.Overall: I expected absinthe, but got vodka instead.
  • (5/5)
    Creepy and utterly original. Everyone I know was reading this at the same time, but I never arranged a book club conversation and I regret it. There's so much to discuss. The collection holds together better than most short story collections, but also each story is such a horrifying little rotted jewel that I wanted to savor it alone rather than reading the whole collection quickly. I'm reviewing this months later, and the ones I still think about are the Velveteen Rabbit one (that was always a horror story for me anyway), "The Thankless Child," "Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters," and "The Frog's Princess."
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Ortberg re-tells well-known stories (fairy tales and others), such as Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, The Velveteen Rabbit, and more. These re-tellings keep the bare bones of the original stories while going off into Ortberg's imagination. I did notice that it was more interesting to follow Ortberg's thread when I was more familiar with a story. For example, I could see where the original Beauty and the Beast influenced the title story far more than I saw deviations in the brothers-turned-into-swans fairy tale, which I've never read previously. (Ortberg does cite all the story sources at the back of the book for those interested.)In most cases, the stories in this book do tend to end 'happily ever after,' in that the protagonist is satisfied, but not necessarily tidying everything up into Hollywood happy endings. These endings might be brutal or violent, as suggested by the book's subtitle, but this is not a collection of spine-tingling scary stories. Some of the conclusions did feel a bit abrupt, but I often feel that way about short stories.With this collection, Ortberg certainly plays with gender and it's not exactly inaccurate to describe at least some of these as feminist stories, although this is nowhere near collections like The Maid of the North, which are decidedly meant to be feminist fables. Perhaps it's because I'm not the hugest fan of either short stories or fairy tales, but I wasn't completely blown away by this book. It's clear that Ortberg is an excellent writer, but this wasn't exactly my cup of tea. However, those who enjoy twists on well-known stories will enjoy this book.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Those familiar with Mallory Ortberg (recently transitioned to Daniel Mallory Ortberg) from the Toast website or her first book, Texts from Jane Eyre, already know that he is extremely well-read and that his point-of-view can be truly unique and humorous. In his newest book, the Merry Spinster, Ortberg offers a modern and twisted take on 11 well-known fairy tales and children’s stories. Playing with ideas of gender, identity and the perpetuation of cultural norms, the stories in this collection are a mixture of traditional narrative and experimental storytelling. Some of the classics that served as influences include the Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Frog Prince, the Velveteen Rabbit and the Wind in the Willows. The Merry Spinster retains and highlights some of the darker elements of these old favorites while challenging their conventional morality and inherited norms. This quick read would be great for those who adore the old tales of childhood, but also appreciate innovative interpretations of these beloved works.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    Angela Carter would be a good starting point for these retellings, most of them grabbing fragments from more than one traditional fairy tale. But where Carter was interested in sex and blood, Ortberg is more interested in the horror of knowledge. Specifically, the horror of knowing that something is very wrong and that if you say so, those who are close to you (and who, in their own way, may very well love you) will deny that anything is wrong and perhaps hurt you to prove their point. Not all the stories are specifically about that, but most are about how people conflate “love” and “power over.” They were indeed very creepy.
  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Ortberg's collection of 11 retold fairy tales in The Merry Spinster promise to be tales of "everyday horror", but mostly turn out bland at best, or confusing and too self-aware at worst.

    Where Ortberg shines is when he sticks to a more classic retelling. The strongest story was probably "The Six Boy-Coffins", which had an excellent feminist slant and was overall very straightforward and well done. "The Wedding Party" and "The Thankless Child", however, were examples of where Ortberg got a little too caught up in his own cleverness and the overall effect is confusing and trampled by an onslaught of allusions. A short story is as much about choosing what not to say as it is choosing what to say, and Ortberg laded his stories with too much, and they buckle under the weight.

    Even the more horrific ones were just... bland. There was nothing shocking, or even particularly horrific. The Velveteen Rabbit retelling has been much vaunted for the sociopathic nature of the cuddly protagonist, but even that was more dull than anything.

    Additionally, this collection has been praised for its progressive gender fluidity, but I never saw anything particularly well done about it. Ortberg routinely mixes and matches pronouns - a daughter called "he", a character choosing to be a wife or a husband - but there is nothing else done with it. Simply changing pronouns isn't saying anything particularly profound.

    All in all, a miss for me.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    This is a collection of retold fairy tales. Some of the stories are some of the better of this genre, in the vein of Angela Carter. Others left me just puzzled. The author lists her influences in the back of the book, which I liked because I wasn’t sure about some of them. She didn’t just work from the brothers Grimm; she also has Biblical influences, Shakespeare, the Wind in the Willows, and even does a riff on the Velveteen Rabbit (which I thought was a really creepy tale). These are not pretty tales; they are all on the dark side. The ‘Wind in the Willows’ one, “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad” is about as dark as you can get, seeing how far people can go in the name of ‘helping’ others. One really different aspect to these stories is how Ortberg puts a spin on gender and terminology; princesses can be male or female, as can wives and husbands or sons and daughters. I liked the idea of ‘wife’ being a job description rather than a term fixed by one’s genitals! The author also has a wicked sense of humor that comes out at times. Four stars.
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This is exactly (and not quite) what I was expecting. Ortberg retells classic fairy tales and puts her own dark spin on them. From beauty and the beast, to the velveteen rabbit, to cinderella, and to the little mermaid; they're all accounted for and are all predictably creepy. She modernizes the stories a bit and brings them back to their true "Grim" roots. This collection is filled with death and unhappy endings, perfect for reading to your children at night ;) Overall, it was alright, but there were a few stories I couldn't get in to or went over my head a little bit. Beautifully written, but it's not a collection I think I'll ever re-read.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I won this book from LTER, but never received it. However, I did get a copy from my local library when it hit the shelves, so I figured I should review it anyway just to be on the safe side. I tend to really enjoy fairy-tale retellings, so I was quite excited for this book. And it certainly was a unique and topical take on several classic stories. Some were easy to figure out (like the little mermaid one that is alluded to on the cover), but others were combinations of several stories, or were so changed from the original that I occasionally couldn't figure out what tale they were based off of until the final few sentences. I found some of the prose a bit obtuse and obfusticatory, but overall this is a decent addition to the genre.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    --received as part of goodreads early reviewer program--I was looking forward to this one, and even so it was better than expected. AS with any short story collection, some are stronger than others. Some are too near the fairytale to have anything really new to say, some so far as, really, to just be short stories, and not retelling at all. But then there's several that balance -perfectly-. Just perfect. I will never see the velveteen rabbit the same way, again, and that story has been part of my basic make-up for all the parts of my life i can remember. In order: The Daughter Cells (the little mermaid)- this was a good choice to start out the collection; a fairly straitforward retelling of a story everyone knows, but with all the stupidest, illogical shit taken out. Everyone makes sense, which is a lot more than can be said for most versions of the story. Still, this is clearly just anotehr version of a storyThe Thankless Child (the juniper tree, or cinderella, I guess)- I really liked the treatment of gender in this. The genders in the previous one were already, maybe, interesting, but it wasn't explicit. I love the husbands and wives and straightforward conversations on which of those each character hopes to be. I... didn't actually get into the story as much as I might've hoped, for all thatFear Not:an incident log (genesis, etc)- hilarious. Just good, laugh-out-loud blasphemous fun. Have you read the book "Good Omens"? So has Ortberg. The Six Boy-coffins (the six swans)- Again, a fairly straightforward retelling, but the characters are so pure, the sibling interactions so genuine, as to transcend the fairytale it clearly is.The Rabbit (the velveteen rabbit)- This story is the star of the book. This story is the one I will be telling everyone about. This story is the one that will end up being in all sorts of collections. It is SO GOOD. This is an entirely straightforward retelling. Large segments of text are directly lifted from the original, and yet this is, in no way, the same story. It is so brilliantly twisted as to retroactively question the words in the original. I don't want to spoil it, but I do want to tell you all about it. I'll give you a hint- the rabbit is a vampire, and that wasn't yellow fever the boy had.The Merry Spinster(Beauty and the Beast)- This was possibly the weakest story in the book. The main character is meant to be insipid, and succeeds. Maybe it's a satire "fuifty shades of grey". That might make it funny. But I haven't read fifty shades of grey to get the joke, and maybe that wasn't even the joke.The Wedding Party- this one also failed to grab me. I also don't know what story it is meant to be retelling, though the characters retell several inside the story. Some of us have been threatening our friend Toad- I love both the Wind in the Willows AND Barthelme. I re-read "Some of us have been threatening our friend Colby" the night before this, to have it fresh in my mind. Barthelme does Barthelme -much- better than Ortberg does Barthelme, but it was still a grand romp.Cast your Bread upon the Waters(various selke and northern mermaid stories)- Like the first mermaid story, this one is pretty true to the tale it derives from, but if only one character, just one, had some damned sense. The Frog's Princess (the frog prince) - again, I love the treatment of gender. Rather than trying to get around the daughters and sons aspects of fairytales, Ortberg has embraced it- daughters do what daughters do, sons do what sons do, but some daughters are boys and some sons are girls. daughter is a position, not a gender, and as with many jobs, it comes with certain responsibilities. In this story, Ortberg takes that framework, set up in earlier stories, to create a really convincing, really icky stalker/shotgun wedding metaphor, succinctly and convincingly expressed. And because of that framework, she can do it all without involving any girls. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors(The Fisherman and his Wife)- In a twist, this one retells the fairytale, but takes away any damned sense the principles had in the original. Or maybe I'm just made at it because I happen to -love- frog and toad, and don't want to see them subverted. Still, it was a strong story, in which clearly the fisherman ought've run off with the fish.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This was a very cool book. The imagery that Ortberg uses and the flipping of the usual narrative scripts within fairy tales was awesome and well thought out. There were tons of lines that she wrote that I highlighted and chortled at because they were just so true to life, despite being set in a fairy tale world. Definitely would recommend this book to anyone who likes the grimmer side of fairy tales.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)
    Dark, yet often humorous, retellings infused with other folklore, Shakespeare, and religion, mostly Catholicism. Frankly, the religious aspects didn't resonate with me at all, which probably affected my overall enjoyment, though not my appreciation. Recommended mainly to readers familiar with the Grimms' brand of storytelling. Recommended to all others with a disclaimer that several of these stories will confuse, frustrate and/or repulse you.Ortberg has a distinct voice, one in which you hear much of his life experience even though these stories are fairy tales. There's a macabre vein throughout, which is probably another echo of his transitioning from Mallory to Daniel.Aside from the voice, the overarching exploration of gender fluidity was both refreshing and compelling. I particularly enjoyed this in "The Thankless Child," a retelling of Cinderella tales.I would like to reread this collection again in a few years - a close read, for deeper analysis. And I do plan to read any new books or collections Ortberg publishes in the meantime.3 starsBelow are simply my notes to self, for memory's sake."The Daughter Cells" (Little Mermaid) - 4 starsThe youngest daughter of a sea-kingsea-witch actually trusted adviser who helps the daughter only after warning herdaughter murders the prince and his bride, not out of jealousy, but because she thinks they belong to her"The Thankless Child" (Cinderella) - 4 starsgodmother is domineering narcissistfluid gender / marital rolesPaul is eldest daughter; when she marries they discuss who will be the wife"Fear Not: An Incident Log" (Book of Genesis) - 3 starsan angel's account of doings on earth; wrestling with Jacob, not his fault"The Six-Boy Coffins" (Six Swans) - 3 starsThe sister is physically abused by the king; she's sentenced to death for murdering her babies (she aborted them early in pregnancy)brother throws the abusive king in the fire"The Rabbit" (The Velveteen Rabbit) - 4 starsThe creepiest story of them all!!rabbit would kill to be real; does he suck the life out of the boy?"The Merry Spinster" (Beauty and the Beast) - 3 starsBeauty is ugly; modern setting; Mr. Beale is the beastthe scariest aspect -- not being allowed to read any of those books!!non-ending left me feeling like what was the point."The Wedding Party" (Goose Girl) - 2 starsuh, I have no idea. Not sure of the plot or the point."Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad" (Wind in the Willows) - 0 starsI haven't read source material so don't feel it's fair to offer a ratingonly thing I will say: worst. friends. ever."Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters" (Orkney folktale) - 2 starstoo religious for me; man falls in love with a mermaidmother punishes him for his "sins", takes his 6 kids raises them herself"The Frog's Princess" (Frog Prince) - 3 starsfunny; pay your debts, keep your word"Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" (The Fisherman's Wife) - 3 starssometimes getting what you wish for (really want) isn't all it's cracked up to be, may not be what you actually want; at the least, a verbally abusive relationship, emotionally manipulative "friend"