Notes from a Well-Read Alice – May 2013

Notes from a well-read Alice logo

Alice is one of our home library borrowers who generously shares her thoughts and reviews with us!  Thankyou, Alice, and happy reading! : )

The Summer Garden by Pauline Simons

‘What joy. A long, riveting saga. From Russia to America -covering several wars- Vietnam included. From childhood to old age- both comedy and tragedy. Torture, explicit sex and the horrors of war are dealt with, but the story is so strong it overrides scenes that would normally cause offense.  Family values are revered and I found it brilliant.’

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

‘A good read. I don’t normally choose short stories, even though I know from experience how much re-writing and editing is required (had a writing spate in the 70’s- even sold a few!) but still prefer the flow of a full length novel. Maeve Binchy’s stories are beautifully bound together by her warm portrayal of human nature.’

Cross by James Patterson

‘Psychopathic horror is not on my agenda.’

The Dark Mountain by Catherine Jinks

‘Dark indeed. Only about twenty pages of its 470 give light relief. I found the portrayal of convict flogging too horrific, but I devoured the book and learnt so much. I couldn’t help comparing what I knew of Victorian London from my grandparents to early life in the Southern Highlands. Two extremes. I know now why I never choose an ‘A’ rated book over an orange- dotted one, I prefer to chuckle off to sleep rather than shudder. There were, nevertheless, unforgettable beautiful phrases and passages in this book. Enthralling to the end.’

Campo Santo by W G Sebald

‘This man is praised as a noted writer so I felt inadequate in that I did not appreciate him. I did not even finish the book! To me, he was stolid, a sort of diarist without the light touch of Samuel Pepys. Somewhat like a literary travel writer who goes off at a tangent. Even so, I am pleased I had the opportunity to read what all the fuss was about.’

Alice

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It’s been a little Grimm around here…

This December marks the 200th anniversary of the first edition of fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Nursery and Household Tales). In celebration, we decked out our display area here at Nowra Library with an enchanted forest, Rapunzel’s tower and yes, a real gingerbread house.

Our peg Rapunzel has a sad, sad face 😦

The display is getting plenty of attention from our borrowers (particularly children, which is a bit creepy, considering the purpose of the original gingerbread house) and the fairy tale based fiction and non-fiction displayed there has been seeing plenty of borrowing action. It’s no wonder, really. Fairy tales, ever enduring, have nonetheless been enjoying a resurgence in popular culture of late, as the 2011 Red Riding Hood film, soon to be released Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and the two Snow White films released this year demonstrate. Just last month Philip Pullman’s re-telling of Grimm’s fairy tales hit the shelves, and you only have to browse the catalogue here at the library to see the range of fairy tale based books we keep in our children’s, young adult and adult collections. 200 years later, the Brothers Grimm live on…happily ever after, you could say.

Meet the Brothers Grimm…  

They look cheery, don’t they?

Jakob (Ludwig Karl) (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859) were born in Hanau, Germany. They studied law at the University of Marburg and it was there that their interest in folk tales first began. They collected folk tales from storytellers and print sources in the years following university and  in 1812 they published Kinder- und Hausmärchen, now more often known as Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The second edition of the tales was published in 1816. The collection includes tales such as  ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Snow White,’  ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ and ‘Hansel & Gretel’, among many other classic fairy stories. Up until 1857 the brothers continued to polish and refine the collection, ultimately releasing seven editions in all. The brothers also co-wrote a German dictionary, and Jacob, who was a professor of philology, wrote Deutsche Grammatick  (German Grammar) in 1819. It was the first historical study of German languages.

… and Mrs Grimm 

In 1825 Wilhelm married Dortchen Wild, a family friend. Dortchen (along with other female friends and acquaintances) was responsible for introducing the brothers to such tales as ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘Hansel & Gretel’ and ‘The Singing Bone’. In her book, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, Valerie Paradiz explores the role upper class German women had in helping the brothers compile their fairy tale collection. According to Paradiz, more than half of the fairy tales were contributed by women such as writer Bettina von Arnim, Dorothea Viehmann, Annette von Droste- Hulshoff and, of course, Dortchen Wild.

Dortchen is the  focus of Australian fantasy author Kate Forsyth’s next novel, The Wild Girl. History and fairy tale merged beautifully in Forsyth’s 2012  novel Bitter Greens, a luminous re-telling of ‘Rapunzel’, and  fairy tale devotees will no doubt be looking forward to The Wild Girl’s April 2013 release.

And, while we’re on the subject… 

Kate Forsyth will be speaking about her take on fairy tales at the Fairy Tales Re-Imagined: Enchantment, Beastly Tales and Dark Mothers symposium at the University of Technology in Sydney this month.

Forsyth will be joined by fellow Australian writer Margo Lanagan (award winning author of Sea Hearts, a captivating selkie tale, and Tender Morsels, which is based on ‘Snow White, Rose Red’) as well as artists, academics, educators and media arts practitioners to examine the relevance of traditional fairy tales in contemporary culture and the motifs, themes and meanings within them.

The symposium has been initiated by media artist Sarah Gibson. Check out Sarah’s interactive online fairy tale project ‘Re- enchantment’ at www.abc.net.au/re-enchantment

Fairy Tales Re-imagined will be held on Saturday October 13th at UTS.

See you there!

Kelly