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Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I'm Reading: These Children Who Come at You With Knives

These Children Who Come at You with Knives, and Other Fairy Tales: StoriesA few days ago I finished Jim Knipfel's amazing short story collection These Children Who Come at You with Knives, and Other Fairy Tales: Stories. I have 2 comments to begin. First, these are not stories for those who like happy endings and second, WOW!

This is a collection of short, biting, alternative fairy tales in which one thing is certain, the main character is in for a bad end. The collection is populated with gnomes, talking chickens, monkeys of despair, and killer house plants (just to name a few).

Each story can be read in 5-10 minutes. They read like traditional fairy tales, just very pessimistic, unhappy ones. But they are brilliant in how they comment upon our society right now. Also, although each story stand alone, for those who read the entire collection cover-to-cover, Knipfel has included a wonderful pay off. In the last, titular, story, the final lines hold a surprise which brings back a charcater from an earlier story and makes for a great last line of the book.

This is a book for people who like dark twists on standard stories and tongue-in-cheek humor. The characters are key here, as with most short stories. Because they are fairy tales, Knipfel can use just about any character he can think up; again the monkey of despair was very original (not to mention very evil). These eccentric characters are the main attraction here.

This book is not for every reader. For many readers, this book will be too dark and too pessimistic. This is NOT a feel good read. That  being said, I did love it and  had fun reading each and every story. I loved the humor and laughed at the untimely ends many of the characters met. But again, I am a reader who seeks this darker kind of story out.

Three Words That Describe This Book: dark, twisted,biting

Readalikes: This is very easy for me, since I read stories like this all of the time. Last year, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya released There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales which is extremely similar to These Children Who Come At You With Knives.

Knifel's prose reminded me of the work of Steven Millhauser, one of my favorite writers. Really anything by him, stories or novels, is a great readalike suggestion here.

The twisted re-tellings of fairy tales by Gregory Maguire, Joe Hill'sstory collection 20th Century Ghost, and Neil Gaiman's American Gods are also great options.

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