Tuesday, March 6
The other day I happened to catch a passing fancy that was Jack Zipes The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I remember reading the Grimm tales -- or at least an edited collection of them -- long ago and once upon a time. These were early college days and it felt heady and somehow arrogant to think that, as I read these unvarnished tales, I had finally come to see the real Grimm tales.
While it is true that there was much I thought I knew, was sure I knew, and things I suspected might be true the truth (at the time) was that I was seeing most of the stories for the first time. After some examination it was clear that all my knowledge of the classic Grimm tales had come from secondary and questionable sources. Disney adaptations and parodies from Rocky and Bullwinkle were the prime culprits, in much the same way that all some people know of The Barber of Seville comes from Bugs Bunny. I should have been ashamed and embarrassed at my own ignorance but at no point had anyone ever sat me down and told me that the tales were important. Grimm Fairy Tales were a lower form of cultural currency, a literacy one could easily fake.
After all these years -- more than half a lifetime now -- I'm coming back to the Brothers Grimm because something in me is telling me it's time. Actually that something is very specific, a tale that once again proved I know even less than I once thought I did. Using the Random Page Test on the Zipes anthology I alighted on a tale that on the surface didn't look at all familiar. By the end of the first paragraph I realized I had seen the story dozens of times before, sometimes three or four times a year.
Usually at work.
Often as a forwarded email.
A story with a punchline, the type of office humor that feels both familiar and pedestrian all at once, always attributed to any number of sources but never as a tale (almost verbatim!) from Grimm.
Some people feel it necessary to devote their life to Joyce's Ulysses, others to use of punctuation in cummings. My goals aren't so lofty: I'm going to attempt to read A-Grimm-A-Day for the rest of this year. I'd like to promise that I'll review each of the stories as I read them but I know better. I'll be realistic and commit to at least one story-review a week, more as I can. This allows for the possibility that some of the stories are scheisse or just aren't worth the verbiage. It also gives me some wiggle room to be lazy.
Oh, but i will read a story a day. I can mange that. And maybe by the end of the year, after tale 279, I can finally, honestly say I've read The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.