Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight

Edited by: Jack Zipes

First line: Once every two weeks Polly went over to the other side of town to see her grandmother.

Why you should read this book: Zipes collections of fairy tales, common and unknown, are unsurpassed in their depth and perspective, and this work, suitable for young readers, is no exception, showcasing "modern" stories (here defined as those published after World War II) that tend to turn basic assumptions about the form on their heads. Without being overtly political, these tales show how fairy tale motifs unravel in a modern world where modern girls take the crosstown bus, drive fork lifts, and, sometimes, use men's desires to get what they need in order to save their people. There's not a bad story in this book, and the rich line drawings, rendered with both whimsy and gravity, add to the magic.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe every girl has to marry, the sooner the better, and her husband needs to be stronger and taller than she is.

The Book of Sea Monsters

Written by: Nigel Suckling

First line: There are literally hundreds of plausible monster sightings on record; but some stand out in particular, because of the glaring honesty of the witnesses, the strangeness of the tale or simply the impact of that tale on the public imagination.

Why you should read this book: While it's basically an excuse for the fantasy artist Bob Eggleton to showcase a bunch of rich and detailed oil paintings of dragons in the water, the text does a lovely job not only of summarizing the myths and legends about sea monsters that have been passed down through centuries, but also of producing modern documentation that will leave the reader halfway to believing in modern monsters, hiding in the unexplored places of the modern world. The pictures in this coffee-table-sized book are insanely beautiful, even as they bring to life all sorts of horrors, and the evidence of real life water beasts is sort of compelling, in a cryptozoological way. A fun gift for any lovers of fantasy art, ancient myths, of the real life study of things that probably don't exist.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Already scared to swim in the ocean.

Meeting the Dog Girls

Written by: Gay Terry

First line: There is no beginning, no end to the line, just women waiting.

Why you should read this book: The magical realism in this collection of speculative fiction turns its nose up at the merely implausible and flirts with surrealism each times it turns the corner: babies float from the sky, marshmallow fail to plug the hole in a man's heart, time loses all meaning. The worlds summoned here are full of the underprivileged —the offspring of coal country, the children of war, the poor of the inner city—wondering how to overcome their circumstances, and the borders between life and death, which are tangible, but permeable. Besides the eponymous Dog Girls, there are ghosts, aliens, thieves, spell casters, birds, statues, and fabric, all with surprising qualities, woven into tales that, if not always perfectly satisfying in the end, are all provocative.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Painfully bad editing. Rife with spelling mistakes. The writer apparently doesn't know the difference between "lose" and "loose" or "its" and "it's" or else doesn't care, and the editor, if such a person had anything to do with this book's publication, was apparently too afraid of witches to suggest any changes.