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review 2018-05-11 17:00
Nice collection
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales - Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham’s collection of short stories draws on more than one magical tale. The title story is, obviously a reference to the twelve swans and deals with the prince who is left with one wing. However, the collection runs far deeper than that.

Fairy tales show us what is in terms of what could have been. They teach or show truths in ways that are easier to deal with. Cunningham knows this, and he knows what drives us to read the gossip stories. His first story, “Dis. Enchant” illustrates this.

While the twelve swans story is the title story and deals with the after, the best stories are “Ever/After” and “Steadfast: Tin”. Both deal with marriage and idea of what happy ever after means. Another powerful and haunting story is Cunningham’s adaption of “The Monkey’s Paw”. Of a more, what if feel is “Jacked” about Jack the Giant Killer and “Little Man” which is about a certain spinner. “Poisoned” puts a new spin on sexual play.

The stories work because Cunningham focus on that after, which in many cases is the most potentially disturbing parts of the story, but they can also be the hopeful and profound. Like these stories in this collection.

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review 2017-08-08 21:24
'The Hours' well spent
The Hours - Michael Cunningham

This short book was winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1999 and takes as its start point the graphic suicide of Virginia Woolf. The tragic loss of one of the leading lights of the 'Bloomsbury Group' in 1941, finally succumbing to the fatal depths of recurrent depression at the age of just 59, conferred a profound loss on the cultural health of a nation, yet posterity has rightly lauded the author's legacy. In his homage to Woolf, Michael Cunningham interweaves the thoughts and experiences of three female characters: Mrs Woolf (Virginia), Mrs Brown (Laura) and Mrs Dalloway (Clarissa), Located in 1923 London, 1949 L.A. and 1990s New York , respectively. Virginia is mulling over ideas for the fictional character yet to inhabit her most famous novel, while Clarissa and Laura are spending a day in preparation for a celebration in their respective times and place. Successive chapters rotate between the discrete storylines  culminating in an unusual cross-over in the end, but the snapshots also draw on some common themes, which beset each of the protagonists, irrespective of the prevailing social norms in 'their' time.


What rescues the book from a sense of cerebral indulgence on the part of the writer though, is the moving beauty of the language and as the reader quaffs down the pages like a smooth, warming liqueur, it is good to savour the interplay of quite sumptuous tones. It also remains consistent with the 'stream of consciousness' storytelling deployed by Woolf in 'Mrs Dalloway' (published 1925), albeit this example is not entirely satisfying, given its fragmentary nature and slightly bitter aftertaste


Still, the takeaway theme for me from this book is the individual capacity, indeed responsibility, to create and shape one's life, within the context of the prevailing time and to weigh the personal sacrifices and gains that attend our choices. Some of the metaphors were also interesting, for example, some mistakes such as cake-making are retrievable, others require stoicism to deal with the consequences, but when it comes down to it, life and love is fundamentally fragile...and fickle.

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review 2016-11-29 12:28
Book Review: The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
The Snow Queen - Michael Cunningham

Well written, but so depressing. Other than a mild empathy for Barrett, I can't relate to any of the characters. The book has had some good moments, but I'm abandoning it at 32% read (kindle). Life's too short for me to read books I'm not enjoying. For readers who can connect with the lives and personalities of the main characters, I'm sure this will be a good read.  

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review 2016-04-12 01:33
Book 28/100: A Wild Swan (and Other Tales) by Michael Cunningham
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales - Michael Cunningham

This is a collection of stories beautifully retold in Cunningham's masterful prose. Stories that are haunting in their original form (i.e., "The Monkey's Paw") are even more haunting with Cunningham's treatment, which delves fully in to their darker connotations and vividly imagines what the implications would be of truly living in these worlds and making these choices.

In some ways, these stories are more adaptations than retellings. With the exception of his retelling of "The Stalwart Tin Soldier," most of the stories keep very close to their original versions but simply go more in depth, revealing character quirks, motivations, and proclivities only hinted at in the stories we know.

If you're looking for something truly new in your retellings, this might not be for you. But if you are looking for beloved tales told exceptionally well, you may have come to the right book.

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review 2016-04-03 17:53
Here Are The Moments That Our Childhood Fairy Tales Forgot Or Dileberetly Concealed From Us
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales - Michael Cunningham

These are darker and revelatory retellings of childhood tales.


Reminded me more of Brothers Grimm, instead of Disney, which I liked.


I enjoyed reading this one, and the illustrations by Yuko Shimizu are absolutely beautiful. Here is one of my favorites:



"Magic is sometimes all about knowing where the secret door is, and how to open it."


--p 68

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