06 May 2009

Clever Maids

I have had a hard time finishing books lately. I finally set aside Miss Leavitt's Stars, about how we learned to determine the distances between the stars and between the earth and the stars. It was interesting, but I have a kind of blind spot or handicap when it comes to the details of physics. (I love the big concepts, though.) A sort of mental fog keeps me from comprehending basic mechanics. Ah well.

I have also been rereading Ward Just's 21 Stories, which is a mass-market paperback, and so fits nicely in my purse. And the stories are really excellent. But they seem to get rather more depressing as the book proceeds, so I have been correspondingly less inclined to take it out of my purse.

With Clever Maids, I've finally finished something. It's a decent read, about the female sources of the fairy tales we're accustomed to attributing to the Brothers Grimm, and has some biographical interest. But the author seems to have an axe to grind, which can get annoying. She keeps noting that the Grimms never thanked their female sources by name in their publications. Surely it would've been nice if they had, but I wonder if such public acknowledgment was really the custom in the early 1800s. The Grimms were folklorists--they never claimed to be the tales' original authors.

Still, nice to know a bit more about the Grimms and their process for collecting and setting down stories. The book is less interesting for its analysis of the tales, which is (to say say the least) not subtle. For fairy tale analysis, I prefer Maria Tatar's Off With Their Heads.

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