The fairy tale tradition dates back to the Bronze Age or before, per researchers and historians. Whether in the oral or the written form, the practice of retelling these ancient stories from many cultures around the world is probably just as longstanding. . . . The Merry Spinster joins this ongoing, rich lineage. Regular online readers of literary matters will know Ortberg from The Toast, where his witty and sharp takes (as *Mallory) on classic art and literature were always a treat. This collection has evolved from a particular series that ran on the site and involved recasting classic children's stories as horror stories. Ortberg also currently runs the Dear Prudence column at Slate.
Shoba Narayan, a journalist and columnist, has a second memoir out. Here is my review of it at PopMatters. Narayan, a Columbia grad, returned to India with her family after two decades in New York City. This memoir is about how, while living in Bangalore, she bought a cow. Overall, the book is a compelling and different take on a prominent and vastly popular subject: the place of the cow in Indian culture and history. But, of course, it is so much more than that. It is also an insightful and humorous account of the reverse immigration journey and how she navigated and negotiated those endless terrains of personal identity, familial belonging, and social community to assimilate on her own terms. This is a well-researched and well-written account and uses humor at just the right moments.
A book review I wrote about a lovely nonfiction book: Souvenir (Object Lessons) by Rolf Potts: In French, " se souvenir de quelque chose" means "to remember something". Potts takes us on a meditative sojourn across several millennia as he describes the evolution of travel from the early nomadic migrations to religious pilgrimages to modern tourism. Along the way, he analyzes how this evolution has changed the way travelers and tourists have identified with and collected souvenirs to preserve memories and pass on stories. Further, he describes how these psychological shifts have, in turn, transformed the souvenir from a rare/magical treasure to a mass-produced commodity.