Monday, February 08, 2016

Happily Ever After? Not Really!

Had to buy Michael Cunningham's 'A Wild Swan and Other Tales' in hard copy. It was beautifully bound, printed and embossed, and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu.

Excluding the preface titled 'Dis. Enchant', the book consists of 10 short re-written fairy tales from another perspective. The author endeavored to shed new light on the unspoken in these tales as we know it. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)

Scanned through the content page and grinned. You don't have to read the stories to accurately guess the stories picked out. 'Crazy Old Lady' could only refer to the witch who built a house out of candy and gingerbread and wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel. The author put forth the reasons she would consider moving to the woods and living in a house of sugar. It's also suggested that the witch might be relieved to be shoved into the oven and be put out of her misery. 'Little Man' has to refer to Rumpelstiltskin, who in this version, is driven by love and a desire to have child more than greed and love of money.

'Poisoned' sounds more like a pained imprisonment. I'll leave you to guess which fairy tale this story is inspired by. 'Her Hair' is about Rapunzel and her Prince and what happens after. This one is kinda creepy. Eiooow. 'Beasts' totally warps the Disney concept of 'Beauty and the Beast'; it adheres more to our real life contemporary horror story. Well, not of rape and pillage if that's what you're thinking. There're gentlemanly acts by the Beast. It is suggested that man, as a human, is more horrifying than the Beast. I won't tell you what and how. Read it and re-read the ending. Kinda chilling.

In the title of the book, there is of course 'A Wild Swan', which is the story of the twelve princes who were turned into swans, and their youngest sister, the Princess who woved them shirts of nettle picked from the graveyards in the nights. We know how that goes with the evil Queen stepmother and weak King father, and how the twelfth prince is left with one arm as a wing still because the sister is to be executed and couldn't finish the last shirt in time. Here, the author gives us a glimpse into the life of this twelfth prince after all that drama and excitement. I think he kinda turned into a drunkard.

Finally he packed a few thing and went out into the world. The world, however, proved no easier for him than the palace had been. He could get only the most menial of jobs. He had no marketable skills (princes don't), and just one working hand. Every now and then a woman grew interested, but it always turned out that she was briefly drawn to some Leda fantasy or, worse, hoped her love could bring him back his arm. Nothing ever lasted. The wing was awkward on the subway, impossible in cabs. It had to be checked constantly for lice. And unless it was washed daily, feather by feather, it turned from the creamy white of a French tulip to a linty, dispiriting gray. 
He lived with his wing as another man might live with a dog adopted from the pound: sweet-tempered, but neurotic and untrainable. He loved his wing, helplessly. He also found it exasperating, adorable, irritating, wearying, heartbreaking. It embarrassed him, not only because he didn't manage to keep it cleaner, or because getting through doors and turnstiles never got less awkward, but because he failed to insist on it as an asset. Which wasn't all that hard to imagine. He could see himself selling himself as a compelling mutation, a young god, proud to the point of sexy arrogance of his anatomical deviation: ninety percent thriving muscled man-flesh and ten percent gloriously blinding white angel wing.

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