The Merry Spinster

The Merry Spinster

Tales of Everyday Horror

Book - 2019
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'Dark and dreadful and persistently clever. Ortberg bloodily turns familiar tales inside out.' Rainbow Rowell

'A collection of stories delectable, formidable, and nimble. As a fantasist and short story writer, Ortberg is without peer.' Kelly Link

'Ortberg has a voracious appetite for poison apples, and a genius for finding the places in fairyland where all the bodies are buried. The Merry Spinster will ruin your most-loved fables, in the best possible way.' Charlie Jane Anders

'Ortberg has the sloe gin wit of Dorothy Parker and the soul of a Classics nerd. It's like both of them sat next to each other in The Merry Spinster and gossiped away. The result is an absolute delight.' John Scalzi

'Ortberg has created a Frankenstein's monster of familiar narratives . . . [that swings] between Terry Pratchett's satirical jocularity and Angela Carter's sinister, shrewd storytelling, and the result is gorgeous, unsettling, splenic, cruel, and wickedly smart. I've never read anything quite like them, and I bet, Dear Reader, that you haven't either.' Carmen Maria Machado

A collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently alarming, emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves and each other as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

Publisher: London : Corsair, 2019.
ISBN: 9781472154125
Characteristics: 208 p. ; 20 cm.


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IndyPL_CarriG Feb 15, 2019

Ortberg’s lyrical collection is a delightfully twisted retelling of fairy tales, myths, and literature that is not for the faint of heart. Most tales have their own distinct voice and gender is often fluid. The very first story, The Daughter Cells, a retelling of the Little Mermaid, establishes the otherworldliness and humor Ortberg infuses the rest of the pieces with when the protagonist learns about how property works on land. Many stories include characters with gender fluidity, such as The Thankless Child, in which characters can choose to be husband or wife. The Thankless Child also examines the concept of the gratitude children owe their caretakers. Perhaps my favorite story was The Six-Boy Coffins, which dealt a very satisfying end to a very mediocre villain, while a young woman tries to prove to be worthy of being born.
The Rabbit, a retelling of The Velveteen Rabbit, I was excited to read when it started – and then it got darker, and darker, and darker…until I felt bad about myself for enjoying it. Creepiness oozes out of many of these stories, and others are fun commentaries.
One I did not enjoy as much as others was Some of us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mister Toad. It examines themes of abuse and gas lighting, and one of its influences is a Donald Barthelme short story I have not read. Unfamiliarity with the source material was not a problem for any of the other stories, so I don’t know? It’s possible I just didn’t get it. I’m going to read that short story and see if it makes more sense to me. All in all though, this collection was a quick read and a charmingly macabre way to spend an afternoon.

Reneeccl Jan 17, 2019

As a big fan of fairytales and their retellings, I couldn't help but take The Merry Spinster off the shelves. It made a great start with the Little Mermaid retelling, which was very tongue-in-cheek with a darker ending than the original, but petered off for me afterwards.

Other than the Rabbit (a retelling of the Velveteen Rabbit), and the Six Little Coffins, which were delectably haunting, the rest became a bit lyrical and abstract for my taste.

If you're a fan of abstract horror however, this might just be your cup of tea.

IndyPL_AhliahB Jan 15, 2019

Ortberg's writing style is a little difficult to get into, but once you've adjusted to the writing, she is very descriptive of place and plot. I would have liked for the stories to have more depth and character development.

ArapahoeJohanna Jul 24, 2018

I picked up this book because I adore Daniel Mallory Ortberg from The Toast and Dear Prudence columns. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others; the rewrite of The Little Mermaid was particularly creative and haunting. The author plays with gender in fun and interesting ways, making this a fascinating addition to the fairly small collection of LGBTQ horror. Some of the stories were too surreal for my taste, but but the collection overall was highly enjoyable.

SPPL_Anna May 10, 2018

Modern, dark, satirical fairy stories that run slipshod over gender norms in the most delicious ways.

May 07, 2018

Clever but creepy. The stories are more enjoyable if one is familiar with the original versions, which the author has thoughtfully listed at the end of the book. The occasional gender shifting is an interesting touch.

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