A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham
Cunningham takes the fantasy right out of the fairy tale in this dark book, going beyond the safety and comfort of the words ‘The End’.
What happens after the story ends? Misunderstood and misused, the characters in this book have failings, whether they be hero or villain. There are erotic idiosyncrasies and immovable convictions, lonelinesses, and very human emotions. The reader has no choice but to empathize.
This is Rumpelstiltskin, willing to help someone who has 24 hours to spin a room full of straw into gold; otherwise, the king will cut off her head:
‘It’s instinct then, that tells you, Help this girl, good might come of it. Maybe simply because you, and you alone, have something to offer her. You who’ve never before had much to offer any of the girls who passed by, laughing with their boyfriends, leaving traces of perfume in their wake; perfume and powder and a quickening of the air they so recently occupied.’
And the Tin Soldier:
‘He knows about damage the way a woman does. He knows, the way a woman knows, how to carry on as if nothing’s wrong.’
Cunningham crafts the two-dimensional fairy tale world into full 3-D.
Michael Cunningham won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.