starlady: (dressed up)
Bernheimer, Kate. The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold. Tallahassee, Florida: Fiction Collective 2, 2001.

Kate Bernheimer is one of the guests of honor at Sirens this year in Skamania, Washington, and since I had never heard of her when she was announced at the end of last year's con (not an uncommon phenomenon for me), I figured that I should read at least one of her books. Apparently she's a scholar of fairy tales who's done some fairly famous anthologies.

I realized while in a workshop with Naamen Tilahun this spring that part of my ingrained resistance to fairy tales is that girls are supposed to like them - and that I think the most common form of fairy tales in the States is Disney. But since Sirens in 2010 I've been reading a lot more fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and actually liking them, or at least most of them.

This is a modern fairy tale retelling that blends influences and tales from several traditions, notably Russian, German, and Yiddish (at a few points tales are quoted verbatim from other texts). It tells the story of Ketzia Gold, middle sister, luckless and apparently unpretty, and her rather sad life - after separating from her husband she winds up as a typist. She grows up with her sisters Merry and Lucy and it's about as cheerful as you can imagine for a fairy tale.

I really don't know what to make of this book. It was an enjoyable read, and Bernheimer's website tells me that it explores the themes of "sadness" (I could at least make out from the text that Ketzia suffers from depression). Okay then. It's surreal, and it walks a fine line between retelling tales and making up new ones out of whole cloth, and also for a fairy tale retelling I was honestly expecting more sex. And possibly violence, but mostly more sex. Or at least more explicit sex.

All that being said, I would really like to read the other Gold family novels - you guessed it, about each of her sisters (I'm not convinced that her brother actually really exists) - and more of Kate Bernheimer's work.


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