Monday, March 15, 2010

Fairies and fairy tales (briefly)

Author Patricia McKillip came up in a book discussion with a friend of mine. We both enjoy McKillip's work and were discussing it's unique flavor.

The best way I can describe this is the classic fairy tale quality of McKillip's work. This is not due to her acknowledgment of fairytales, but in the very nature of her characters. Immortals and fairies are not human. In McKillip's non-mortal characters, there is a definate disconnet with emotion, a tendency to see only lusts and desires. Even her human character lack certain aspects of humanity; they are lost in the haze of the story, removed from even the setting's 'normal' or 'real' world, just the way heroes, heroines, princes, and queens are in stories.

After discussing characters I (being an innately visual person) moved on to visuals. The descriptions in McKillip's novels are detailed, intricate, finely woven like a tapestry or illuminated manuscript. They weave a detailed story, yet one that leaves you with the haze of a dream. A number of McKillip's books feature covers illustrated by Kinuko Craft. Craft's obsessively detailed paintings are perfect (in my mind) for McKillip's work, mirroring her connection to classic fairy tales and medieval artworks.

McKillip's characterizations of fairy make me think of Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Clarke's fairies are devious, lustful creatures. You cannot apply human reason to them for they are not human. Her fairies want to feed their lusts, with out consideration for anyone- mortals nor fair folk. With this, Clarke creates a classically mythic, darkly pretty, and undeniably other world of fairy.

For those of you unwilling or thus far unable to delve into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, try Clarke's collection of short stories: The Ladies of Grace Adieu. The hardcover is beautifully packaged, bound with grey bookcloth. Or try the audio recording. Short stories are great in audio form, as you don't need such long periods to listen (fit one in a long commute). Also, the British vocal talents of Davina Porter and Simon Prebble are wonderful to listen to (as is Prebble's audio recording of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell).

This post was brought to you by the combined powers of the audio version of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and a library book sale copy of The Changeling Sea.

Any other comments on faerie? Or books you think do a nice job at portraying the darker aspects of faerie? I haven't read much Charles de Lint, but I think he may...

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