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Friday, August 14, 2009

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales Edited by Kate Bernheimer

Title: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
Editor: Kate Bernheimer
Reviewed format: paperback
Pages: 341
Release Date: August 13, 2002

I started to read this almost two years ago, lost it, then found it again recently. Instead of starting from the beginning, I picked up where I left off. Most of this review was written about a year ago, but I’ve wrapped it up and kept it short. If it sounds choppy, that is probably why.

Has anyone read "The Snow Queen"? Everyone contributing here did and apparently it's the only one worth talking about. Halfway through I stopped to see if I had this story so I could read it. I don't.

Aside from having no idea what the hell everyone was talking about (except from the basic plot--but you know what that's like, you know what happens, but you don't know how it happens--which made the Snow Queen sound exactly like the witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), most of the essays were insightful, quirky, and blessedly personal. I say this because without that provocative self-revelation how else am I to relate in the way only girl-talk can inspire?

Fairy tales have a one up on any other genre of writing. A lot of kids really do grow separately, simultaneous reading or being read to with fairy tales. In this respect, we're all lucky. There isn't a finite number of fairy tales, but Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm still have a lot of mileage. And everyone, if they haven't seen the movies, has at least heard of the Disney adaptations. We can all remember something similar and that's the point. It's an instant bonding tool, a way to spark a conversation between the reader and these women writers who, for the most part, can't help but relate personal stories to their favorite fairy tales. Fairy tales are inherently personal. They're a part of most childhoods, that private imaginative and wondrous collection of years that only we are aware of, only we can share the experience of being us during the magic years. So when we find someone else that shares an experience, someone that read a story and feels the same way we do about it, it's a relief. And it also makes a secret connection between the two, like making a new friend.

That’s part of what made Mirror, Mirror On The Wall such a successful read for me. Many of the essays were personal, but some took other approaches: technical, literary, or sociological. Some were longer, some were shorter (a few pages), some were incredibly complex and beyond all hope of my understanding, but all of the essays were enjoyable, engrossing reads. I also found a lot of new favorite authors I want to begin reading, references to books I haven’t read yet, but have been interested in and now, must go out and read at some point. There isn’t much I can say about each piece individually; I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. As a whole, Mirror, Mirror On The Wall was a great collection of essays by a great number of female authors. I would recommend this to anyone who likes fairy tales enough to engage in the discussion these authors bring to the table.

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