Two short book reviews for March since in March I went on a pretty epic re-reading jag, and then didn’t write reviews for most of them. These two made it through though, so I hope you enjoy!
Fairy Tale (The New Critical Idiom Series) by Andrew Teverson
Lately I’ve felt a renewed interest in doing more ‘serious’ scholarly work, so I decided to add some more serious reading to the rotation. I’ve been interested in fairy tale research for some time and have a respectable start to a fairy tale research library, but before I go into Zipes and Bettelheim, I thought a re-introduction to the genre would be in order. The New Critical Idiom series seems to be Routledge’s answer to Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction, but instead of brief, much more in-depth. That’s not the best explanation, but it’s early and I’m tired. Fairy Tale by Andrew Teverson discusses the schools of fairy tale creation, both the presumptive oral tradition, and the 19th century fairy tale creation wave, as well as major critical schools. There is a relatively low-level of engagement with the Disney machine, which I personally appreciated, since I do not respect their adaptations. The book is relatively light on the the feminist and revisionist schools, but focuses more of its attention on psychoanalytic and Marxist approaches. Biographical criticism, which I feel is much more important for ‘recent’ fairy tales like “The Little Mermaid,” is mentioned, but almost discounted. Still, it’s a dense-yet-engaging read, which is not an easy balance, and I definitely feel like it helped prepare me for tackling more fairy tale criticism.
Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
I am re-reading this novella for, I believe, the second time since my first reading in 2013. After reading the dense text (above) I wanted to read something short that moved quickly, and I picked Melville’s anxiety-producing novella Benito Cereno, of course. My copy is bundled with Bartleby, the Scrivener which I cannot believe I haven’t written about already. Right now, since I’m dealing with adjunct hell and general meh-ness, I thought Bartleby might push me over the stay-in-bed-all-day edge, so Benito Cereno it was. The story is amazingly well-written (ah, Melville) and extremely stressful to read. The strangest part is that there’s a lot of Amasa Delano’s thoughts, then just random violence out of nowhere, but it’s so brief I wasn’t sure if I had read it right. Like I guess someone lost all their fingers? I felt bad about it! I should probably mention what the novella is about. It follows the charming Amasa Delano, American captain of the ship Bachelor’s Delight, that has come upon a ship in distress. Almost all of the Spanish crew has died, except for Benito Cereno and a handful of others, but around 160 slaves are roaming free on the ship. Because Delano is super nice he cannot figure out that the slaves had a revolt and killed everyone, that Cereno is a prisoner, and that the slave Babo (pictured on the cover above) is behind it all. Everything sort of works out in the end though, basically, except for the people who died. Note: the same cover image is used for an edition of Blake, or the Huts of America, which I find interesting, though the image doesn’t make a ton of sense for Blake.