Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
I enjoyed Oyeyemi's riffing on the Blue Beard fairy tale. She is especially interested in why a husband would kill his wife. Some of the stories incorporate more elements of magic realism than others. Several of these stories draw on Oyeyemi's Yoruba background. At the writersfest in Vancouver, Oyeyemi said that although she was born in Nigeria, she doesn't feel a particular attachment to that country, only to the Yoruba people. She grew up in England, immersed in western mythology as well as traditional Yoruba stories.
It is her way with words that is especially delightful, so I'll quote a few bits. When Mary lay in a dead woman's bed and couldn't sleep, "Minutes pricked shallowly, like thorns."
In a tale of an adopted child: "The woman insisted on being called mother. (Which the boy called her, but with a secret hiss that came from a place inside him that he did not understand - inside his head, her name became motherhhhhhhh, smothered myrrh.)"
St. John Fox says of public libraries that they " always make me feel covered in ink. Ink on my clothes, ink in my eyes. Terrible. All the body heat in there is bound to make the pages mushy."
It's lots of fun. Readers might also like read and compare the original tales that inspired Oyeyemi. Joseph Jacobs' version from English Fairy Tales is here and Charles Perrault's Blue Beard is here.