Angela Carter and the Modern Fairy Tale

Don’t talk to strangers, especially the unassuming, handsome ones! Our parents drum this into our innocent little minds as kids, usually the first time we walk to school ourselves or the first time we are allowed to play beyond their line of sight. Little did we know then that this wise warning was handed down from 17th century Frenchman, Charles Perrault, and his tale of Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, better known as Little Red Riding Hood. The fairy tale genre continues to thrive and nowadays, it’s a big deal on the big screen. But although evolving, what role does the fairy tale play in the modern world?

WPA poster by Kenneth Whitley, 1939.

ONCE UPON A TIME, fairy tales were used to scar virtues and morals into the minds of young children. However, with children now savvier and more informed than ever, it’s difficult to imagine that their behaviour could be influenced simply by reading The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood.

In her article All the Better to Eat You With, novelist Angela Carter recognises that “the notion of the fairy-tale as a vehicle for moral instruction is not a fashionable one.” So with moral instruction becoming less fashionable, what purpose does the fairy tale now serve?

In 1979, Carter radicalised the fairy tale in her collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber. Taking great care not to parody or pastiche the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers or Perrault, she creates new stories based on old tales to articulate feminist ideas, explore male sexual desires and subvert the traditional roles of fairy-tale women. But The Bloody Chamber is not one for kids! Read the rest of my article on The Flaneurthe indie art and culture magazine and website

Penguin Threads designed by Jillian Tamaki

Now before I begin, these beautiful Penguin Thread editions are not due to be released until October 2011 (I know, I can’t wait that long either!).

Illustrator and cartoonist Jillian Tamaki was commissioned by Penguin to design three embroidered covers for the following Penguin Classic Deluxe titles: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Frances Hodgsen Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Jane Austen’s Emma.

On her Sketchblog, Jillian sounds just as excited about this project as the rest of us are:

Penguin Classics! What a dream project. When I first did my Monster Quilt, I said I wouldn’t take commissions in embroidery… unless Penguin called me for a Penguin Classics cover. Sometimes you get what you wish for (times three).

Now. Take a deep breath… et voila!

jillian tamaki

Theres more!! Continue reading

Virginia Woolf’s last letter

I just had to blog about this. Virginia Woolf’s life is a well publicised one. As is her death. On 28th March 1941, sixty-years ago today, she drowned herself by wading into the River Ouse in Yorkshire near her home, … Continue reading

Penguins Mini Modern Classics: I won!

Penguin Mini Modern Classic

There’s been a whole lot of hype and Twitter chat recently surrounding Penguin’s Mini Modern Classics, which celebrate 50 years of Penguin Modern Classics (congratulations, Penguin). The 50 mini books feature mini stories from some of the most famous authors of the past 100-and-odd years including, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Frank Kafka, Kinsley Amis and Angela Carter.

So today, while obsessing over my pretty awful-looking bank balance, I thought I’d treat myself to a couple, I mean, they’re only 3 pounds each! While I deliberated over which two to buy (I tell you, it’s not an easy choice!), I noticed that the ladies over at For Books’ Sake were running a competition to win 10 of the 50 books! So I got envolved.

Penguin Mini Modern Classic boxsetFirst of all, I never win anything, I mean never. I’m just one of those unlucky types. But, it looks as though today was my lucky day after all! Now I don’t need to decide which two of the collection to buy, I’ve got ten to read! (10 ‘mini’ reviews coming soon folks!)

A big thanks to those at For Books’ Sake (@forbookssake)! Make sure you check out their website, it features books by and for independent women; they review classic and modern books across both fiction and non-fiction. It’s a fab site, and one that I only recently discovered (and thank goodness I did!).

My Penguin: You Do the Covers

Like This!

A while back, I blogged about Penguin’s irresistible Art-Deco inspired books, released to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death. Knowing me all to well, my mates recently bought me the full collection for my birthday. Lucky girl.

Now, many of you might be now beginning to wonder whether I work for Penguin at the rate I bang about their ‘special’ editions. Unfortunately, I don’t, but here I go again. By a matter of coincidence I came across Penguin’s ‘naked’ books series, My Penguin (I’ve never seen these before, so it’s probable that they’ve been around for a while!). These inspired editions have blank front covers, enabling you to unleash the creative-side of your brain as you design your very own.

My Penguin books

Penguin have very cleverly marketed these as uber-cool by having Razorlight, Beck, Goldspot, Dragonette, Ryan Adams, Johnny Flynn and Mr. Hudson & The Library chose “the Penguin Classic they most wanted to see NAKED” and design a cover for it (see them here!). The strap line? “We print the words. You do the covers.” Ingenious. Continue reading

Review: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay‘s writing oozes ‘normality’, it’s unashamedly honest and at times unapologetically simple. But her personal life has been neither normal nor simple, and her identity has very much influenced her work; a Scottish poet and writer, Kay was born in Edinburgh to a Nigerian father and a Scottish mother. She was adopted at birth by a communist white couple and was brought up in Glasgow.

In Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey, Kay tells us about the journey she took to trace her birth parents. Her journey is a metaphorical and physical one: from Glasgow to Milton Keynes to Aberdeen to Nigeria and back again, to the forked roads and the roads not taken and the long winding roads. Emotionally, the journey is a difficult one, and Kay doesn’t take the easy route. At an important stage of the story, she ignores advice and chooses to travel to her father’s village of Ukpor by road instead of flying. After the dangerous twelve-hour journey Kay’s journey ends with her finding her imagined red-dust road, and more:

The road welcomes me; it is benevolent, warm, friendly, accepting and for now it feels enough, the red, red of it, the vivid green against it, the long and winding red-dust road.

But it’s not just a search for genealogy, as the blood imagery of the red-dust road might suggest; it’s the search for a greater truth:

“This question fascinates me,” I say, leaning forward in my chair to be closer to him. “Nature or nurture?”

Throughout the book Kay indulges us with humorous, touching anecdotes about being a black adopted child with white parents in Scotland during the 60’s and 70’s, as well as her experience of being pregnant, and family, secrets, memories and religion, but it falls short of delving into the deepest recesses of her private life. I craved an insight into her sexual identity and personal relationships, particularly with Carole Anne Duffy to which she provides only one heart-breaking insight (“she didn’t love me anymore”). But the exclusion of the ‘juicy details’ only makes it clear that Kay doesn’t define herself by her sexuality or her relationships. And why should she, kiss-and-tell isn’t exactly Continue reading

Bags get a literary revamp!

It seems our beloved books have gone all red carpet on us. Jaclyn Noelle over at Bookysh brought these to my attention in one of her recent blog posts.

Designed by new French designer Olympia Le-Tan, twelve magnificent book clutches were available to buy online from 10th December, priced at a whopping 1087 Euros (£925 / $1424). Although most of the book clutches have now sold out, some designs are still available to order! See all twelve designs at the Olympia Le-Tan website.

The clutches have a brass frame covered with an embroidered canvas book cover design, and it that’s not enough, each clutch is lined with a Liberty printed fabric. Hollywood stars including Natalie Portman and Clémence Poésy have been snapped posing with these literary accessories  on the red carpet at the Black Swan and Harry Potter movie premiere’s. Books have hit the big time: they’re fashionable.

Would you wear one of these?

Penguin clothbound classics in time for Christmas!

I’m always banging on about the Penguin Classics clothbound editions, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, because they look the way ALL books should look. Check out these new additions to the collection, released today, and just in time for Christmas… Continue reading