Fourteen fairy tales reworked for adults, by novelist Kasten.
Children are nightly lulled to sleep with fairy tales and fables in the hopes that the lessons imparted won’t fade with the dawn. Lessons about caution and selfishness but also self-preservation, revenge, insanity, patricide, incineration—all your basic kid stuff. This book revisits 14 such tales, giving each a fresh spin. The boy who cried wolf is now a grown man, a one-armed shepherd dealing with the consequences of his youthful transgressions. Close to madness from abandonment and starvation after their original tale, Hansel and Gretel plot to avoid future mistreatment by their soon-to-be stepmother. Beauty loves her Beast in spite of appearances, but she may find he can’t reciprocate when circumstances are reversed. Curious Baby Bear bites off more than he can chew when he removes a gun from his parents’ closet. Little Red Riding Hood sets out for grandmother’s house, but, distracted by the sensual pleasures of a secret meadow, she fails to reach the intended destination. This sharp yet charming collection of tales takes dead aim at human foibles and follies. Romantics beware: The ideal of eternal love is herein skewered, and the bloom quickly comes off the rose more than once. In dealings with the fairer sex, men behave cruelly, stupidly and only occasionally kindly. On a brighter note, a mistreated wife, once a virtual prisoner in her own home, becomes (post-husband) an empowered, enterprising businesswoman. Often the path in Wildwood winds unpredictably. One of the strongest stories, “The Magic Looking Glass,” explores the Evil Queen’s upbringing, pre–Snow White, and her fascination with a magic looking glass; its real-life, videolike scenes, rivaling those of satellite TV, induce a moral and spiritual catatonia as she becomes obsessed with beauty. Conversely, however, a lesser entry contrasting the perspectives of a duck and a swan misses the mark.
Enjoyable, imaginative retellings of classic tales—not for the nursery.