What to Read this Halloween
It was a couple of years ago when a friend of mine suggested that I read Finn by Jon Clinch, a story about Huckleberry Finn’s father. (Quick warning, it’s a rough book and not meant for the faint of heart.) When I looked at the book, it seemed like one that should be moved to the front of my endless book queue. But before that, it gave me a chance to revisit a few books other books. It had been a long time since I read either The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. So, I allowed a few more books to cut in line and took the time to read both of them before I read Finn. It was worth it and I must add that Finn is a fantastic book.
Which leads me to this:
I love the name Grimm. How fitting that two brothers credited with gathering these grim fairy tales shared a last name that is one too many m’s from a word that, according to Webster, means “ghastly, repellent, or sinister in character,” much like many people and creatures that one can meet in the mythical Germanic forests. (I should note that the word came before the name by about 400 years according to the OED.)
Anyone familiar with these original tales knows that many of the characters are ghastly and sinister. Fathers who banish their sons because they are half hedgehog and half boy; parents who promise their children to strangers in the woods in exchange for guidance on how to get out of said woods; and dozens of repellent witches and evil kings that always seem to want to lock away the princess on top of a mountain, sometimes one made of glass. Just ask Christoph Waltz’s character, Dr. Shultz, in Django Unchained. “It’s a German story. There’s always a mountain.” (He had my vote for the Oscar.)
Once upon a time, I worked at a great bookstore, may it rest in peace. (It was also the place where I first heard of Finn.) There were always new wonderful books coming into the story each and every week - too many to keep up with. It seemed like every day when I would straighten the shelves I would find new titles that would excite my curiosity. While there one Sunday, working by myself, straightening the shelves in the children’s section, I came across this title A Tale Dark and Grimm. Yes, it caught my eye as you can tell.
I thought to myself that it would be fun to pair this book with some of the original tales between chapters. So far I’ve read about 70 of the 210 tales that fills up the 2 volume set I bought last summer from the also now closed Old Book Company in Chestertown. With one more week before Halloween I think it is time to start. The book received great reviews and though I don’t mind writer’s borrowing ideas from other books and stories, so long as they make their work original, I think it is important to know the reference, to know the origins of how and why this book came to be made.
And with that, Happy Halloween …