A Wild Swan: And Other Tales
Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize winner for The Hours) takes a fresh and dark look at a selection of classic fairy tales with A Wild Swan: And Other Tales. His brief, richly imagined new stories, often based only loosely on their models, are accompanied by detailed, atmospheric black-and-white illustrations by Yuko Shimizu.
Here readers will find the "crazy old lady" who lures Hansel and Gretel to her cottage of candy in the woods; but Hansel and Gretel are pierced and tattooed, and sexy "with their starved and foxy faces." Snow White's prince is obsessed with the beautiful deathly version of her he discovered in the coffin, and troublingly insists on replaying the scene over and over again. Rumpelstiltskin is surprisingly well intentioned--for the most part. Rapunzel's life following the closure of the Grimms' tale is revealed, and it's a good thing she kept her severed braids. The Beast has grown to be a bad boy, even after Beauty gives him her love. And in the title story, the princess is successful in transforming all of her brothers but one back to their fully human forms.
Cunningham sometimes brings these stories into more or less modern times, but the point of this collection is not to recast the classics with smartphones and fast cars, and some of the settings remain unchanged. Rather, these are playful riffs on well-known stories, almost always with a still gloomier tone than even the Brothers Grimm applied. These tales are not always for the kids, of course, but have an appealing mix of dark humor and nostalgia for timeless stories. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia