Monday, October 12, 2009

Kate Bernheimer Interview on "The Complete Tales of Merry Gold"

I came across this interview with Kate Bernheimer last week, discussing fairy tales and her book "The Complete Tales of Merry Gold" and thought I'd share.

Ms. Bernheimer shares some of her thoughts on fairy tales as well as gives some interesting insights to the characters from her 'trilogy' of Gold sister books - things I don't think I've read anywhere else.

Here's an excerpt from her response to the question "Why is Merry [the main character] so sadistic? She seems more like the villain of a fairy tale than the main character [who tends to be innocent]?":
..meanness is a very important trope in many of the fairy tales that fascinate me. It’s true that while American popular culture has canonized female fairy-tale characters with hearts of gold, in fact the “main characters” of fairy tales are extremely varied: as many stupid, clumsy, boring, mean, ugly, plain, deficient, weird, pathetic, and sad characters as there are “good” ones. So actually, the “main characters” of many fairy tales are cruel. One example, easy to find on the shelves, is Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Girl Who Trod on A Loaf” where the young hero’s hobby is to pull wings off of flies. She suffers in the end, but she is still the story’s beautiful, troubled cold center. She is the bright star in a terrifying and sublime drama. Countless examples of mean girls at the center of story exist in fairy tales from around the world, just as they do in the junior high classroom or [fill in the blank], but in fairy tales they are a lot more interesting to know. I would entreat readers to look at the many, many available translated collections of tales from around the world, to see the existential variety in them.
You can find the whole interview HERE.

As always, Ms. Bernheimer's comments are thought provoking and interesting for anyone who loves fairy tales.

You can find another interview which gives further insight to her style of writing and how and why she prefers to use fairy tales that aren't well known, HERE.

The books mentioned are:
The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold
The Complete Tales of Merry Gold
The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold (yet to be published)All three make use of German, Yiddish and Russian tales that are not well known but those who read a lot of fairy tales will at least recognize some of the tropes, if not some of the inspirations.

You can see a previous post on Ms. Bernheimer's journal Fairy Tale Review HERE.

I should mention also that the two collections she put together and edited ("Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales" and "Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men On Fairy Tales") remain two books of my favorites. I return to read them often and get something new out of them every time.
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