Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Girl who Circumnaviagted Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

Fairy tales are trendy now, which is fortunate or unfortunate depending on how you view it. There are lots of versions being made now, with many fascinating insights into the tales, and hopefully people are beginning to realize that fairy tales are not just simple nonsense for children, but dark and intriguing stories with potential meanings on multiple levels. But on the other hand, the popular media may be helping to circulate incorrect stereotypes about fairy tales, and the creators may be more interested in generating audiences than staying faithful to the tale's history. How do you feel about it? Did the recent fairy tale treatment in books, movies, and television inspire you or anyone you know to look into them further? Or were you a fairy tale fan before and resent the fact that they're everywhere?

Young adult authors are certainly jumping on the bandwagon, which means that there are fairy tale inspired stories everywhere but not necessarily really good quality ones. So many new books about fairies I have no interest in, so when I heard about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, initally I thought nothing of it, but after looking into the reviews I became curious.

Partial Amazon review from Cory Doctorow:
"Fairyland is a book that is both deeply in love with fairy tales and sharply critical of them: the story of September, a girl who flies from her dreary and sad life in Nebraska to Fairyland on the Green Wind. In Fairyland, she meets every sort of wonderful mythical beast (including a wyvern that's half library), eats the most wonderful and strange things, and has the most wonderful and extraordinary adventures and quests. And it really is wonderful: whimsical and lyrical and shot through with an imagination that simultaneously renders the traditional furniture of fairy tales fresh, and manages to make the author's own inventions seem as mythic as the first story told in the first cave in front of the first fire.

But Valente's fairytale broods and seethes, and it is not always such a nice place. For every velocipede herd thundering across the plain, ridden by a marvelous fairy in aviator's leathers and jodhpurs, there's a whipped blue water-djinn who bears the emotional scars of slavery. For every autumn kingdom filled with fiery sylvan alchemists, there is a political exile in the winter country, banished and sorrowing. For every brave sacrifice from September's companions, there's an abandoned soap golem that wishes the good queen would restore Fairyland to its glory."

Amazon reader E.R. Bird "Ramseelbird":
"Let's say, for example, that a certain children's librarian was getting bored with the state of fantasy today. Maybe she read too many Narnia rip-offs where a group of siblings get plunged into an alternate world to defeat a big bad blah blah blah. Maybe she read too many quest novels where plucky young girls have to save their brothers/friends/housepets. So what does the universe do? Does it say, "Maybe you should try something other than fantasy for a change"? It does not. Instead it hands the children's librarian a book with a title like "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" and (if she hasn't hyperventilated after reading the title) says to her, "Here you go, smart guy. Try this on for size." That's what being cocky will get you. It'll have you reading a book that walks up to the usual middle grade chapter book fantasy tropes and slaps 'em right smack dab in the face. I have never, in all my livelong days, read a book quite like Catherynne Valente's. My job now is to figure out whether that is a good thing, or very very bad."

Sounds like it might be worth a read, no? Apparently the copy at my library has been lost, so who knows how long it'll be for me, feel free to comment and add your own review if you've read it. Also: today my blog turns two! Can't believe I made it this long! Thanks so much to all of you readers. I was initially thinking of creating a notebook where I could take notes on what I read and refer back to it, but a blog allows me to learn from you as well, so I'm so glad I created this instead! (Plus, here I can feature pretty pictures and link to online sources and the tags create an automatic index, also helpful features...)

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