Archive for October, 2011

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Monday, October 17th, 2011

By Carolyn Turgeon

The Short Take:

Any twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s original is an improvement for me. I truly hate that fairy tale. Turgeon has added more context to the original tale as well as adding some motivation and (most important of all) twisting the ending. All improvements.

Why?

As a rule I love fairy tales, even the dark ones. But Andersen’s Little Mermaid was just too futile and joyless. Turgeon’s twist is still pretty grim, but there is also purpose and achievement. That makes a big difference.

The love triangle of mermaid, princess, and prince is enhanced by the growing empathy the princess develops for the mermaid as well as the princess’ desire to halt an impending war.

Turgeon actually puts more reasoning behind everyone’s actions — even the rather callow and shallow prince. She also adds in a fair dollop of sex. But the best thing is she alters the ending just enough to keep you from throwing the book across the room (like I did when I read the original). And, I deeply thank her for that.

A Little Plot:

Turgeon stays pretty close to the original fairy tale plot-wise. She does add in an impending war between the families/countries of the prince and princess. And the mermaid’s relationship with the prince gains a whole new dimension.

Plus, the ending is different. Not Disney different — which appeals to all who love completely happy endings but is totally out of keeping with Andersen’s story — but just different enough. Too bad Andersen didn’t think of this one. Glad Turgeon did.

Now, if Turgeon would just rework Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soilder. I hate that one, too.

Read more about Turgeon by clicking here.

Bed

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

By David Whitehouse

The Short Take:

This is one strange yet highly compelling book. A man takes to his bed on his 25th birthday and thereafter his family revolves around caring for him. Told through the eyes of his younger brother, this tale unfolds beautifully. It is thoughtful, witty, and entirely mazing — a real winner.

Why?

You could call this a love story, but certainly not a traditional one. You could call it a commentary on the futility of modern lives, and that would not be wrong. You could say it points out the insanity of  media obsessions that invent celebrities. Or, you could just say this is one terrific book and be done with it.

When I picked it up, I didn’t know what to expect. And, at first I had some problems with the descriptions of Mal’s (the older brother) incredible obesity. They do have a certain “eww” factor. But with each page turned I was drawn irresistibly into this fictional family where love is shown in such unexpected — and not always understandable — ways.

It’s a slim book that packs a lot of power. I’m so glad I found it.

A Little Plot:

Mal has always done what he wants the way he wants. His younger brother both loves and hates him for this. Most of all, he envies Mal for winning the heart of Lou, the girl the younger brother adores.

When Mal takes permanently to his bed to avoid a typical gown up life, their mother waits on him hand and foot, their engineer father retreats to the attic to invent something that might make up for the guilt he carries, and the younger brother tries to figure out just where he fits in. If at all.

The tale moves between the present and past, tracing the boys’ growing up years as well as Mal’s final  — and only — media interview and it’s aftermath. In the end, it all makes sense and has a certain aching symmetry.

For more about David Whitehouse and his first novel, click here.

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