Book Review: Fairytale collection not without a few bad apples

The recently released anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, has a title that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a Brothers Grimm tale.

This is not surprising: The brothers partially inspired the book, after all.

Made up of 40 contemporary reinterpretations of international fairytale classics from the Grimms’ own “Hansel and Gretel” to the Japanese “A Kamikakushi Tale,” this collection is a diverse canon smörgåsbord that’d appease just about anyone, if he or she gave it a chance.

Granted, not everyone likes short stories, let alone fairytales; people aren’t crazy about “once upon a times” anymore. Even so, this anthology, with its sleek, modern, multicultural aesthetic, is something altogether different.

The collection’s quality is evidenced by the presence of pieces from award winners like Michael Cunningham, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few, and a special introduction from Wicked author Gregory Maguire. Many of the anthology’s pieces are beautifully crafted, featuring diverse but engaging methodologies that make each taste of the text a newly refreshing experience.

Unfortunately, as in a fairytale, this collection has its evildoers. For every five or so great stories in this collection, there is bound to be one that spoils the bunch. For example, turn the page after reading arguably one of the best pieces in the book, a unique and subtly brilliant entry called “Orange” by Neil Gaiman, and readers will find themselves stuck trudging through a insipid take on Psyche and Cupid’s romance in Francesca Lia Block’s “Psyche’s Dark Night.”

Considering how subjective such opinions will be, though, a few wolves thrown in with the sheep isn’t such a sin. The anthology has a greater flaw, oddly enough, in its lack of fairytales. The anthology never includes the original tales or even summaries to give context to the reinterpretations that make up the collection. For pieces that are incredibly experimental and abstract, like Sabrina Orah Mark’s interesting but gruesome story, it’s horribly distracting not to have that framework, and while readers could seek the originals on their own, that’s not a good enough solution.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me isn’t perfect, but it comes darn close. Some of its missteps and less successful stories can be called poisoned apples, but for the chance to experience something so often curious and charming, isn’t it worth a risky bite?