As Sagacia and Simplia slipped into the kitchen to get some nerve-soothing rooibos tea, in walked Norman Perrin, Csenge Zalka, and Sue Kuentz, each laden with books. Mario rushed to help carry, and Fiona and Marni began clearing space at the table to add more samples.
“I hope one of you has Princess Bride by William Goldman,” Megan Hicks called to them. “I’ll pay good money for a fair copy of the red letter “good parts” version!”
“Nope. Sorry!” Sue said. “However,…” she continued, standing one of the books she had brought on the table.
“I just finished reading a well-written young adult fantasy titled The GRIMM LEGACY: Borrow the Magic if you Dare! by Polly Shulman. Quite creatively written, weaving the magical objects from several fairy tales into the story.”
Fiona reached out for the book, and Sue placed it in her hand without missing a beat.
“The main character, Elizabeth, takes on a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, which is a library that checks out magical objects from the Grimm’s fairy tales. Mysteries have to be solved involving believable characters who get mixed up in the magic of it all.”
Sue spread out her other books along the table then sat on the floor beside the fireplace.
Norman Perrin set his worn brown paper grocery bag on the table and began pulling out volumes, naming them as he went.
“Greyling,” he announced, standing the Jane Yolen book on the table, and…
“The Woman Who Cried Flowers.”
He dug deeper into the bag.
“Eleanor Farjeon penned a number of classics,” he said, propping up a couple more volumes. “Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard and Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field—literary tales in a narrative frame.”
He turned the bag over and Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom slid out.
“A reviewer on Amazon calls this a book to be read until it is torn, tattered, dog-eared and candy-stained,” he said, nodding his agreement.
“Oh!,” Sue cooed, picking up the book, her eyes twinkling with retired librarian fervor.
Sagacia and Simplia pushed through the door with their tea and some French pastries just as Csenge Zalka stepped to the table.
“This reminds me how much French literary fairy tales in the Andrew Lang books give me the creeps every time,” she said, unloading her bookbag. She began to line up her collection.
“They give you the creeps!!?” Simplia asked.
“I never warmed up to them,” Csenge shrugged.
“Sh-h,” Sagacia signaled to her friend.
“They don’t give me the creeps,” Simplia whispered.
“Me neither, Dear,” Sagacia whispered back. “But we might learn something.”
“Yeah, we’ll learn to get the creeps!” Simplia whispered.
“Just sh-h!” Sagacia insisted.
Csenge gestured toward the books she had arrayed along the front of the table.
“A lot of these are usually listed as fairy tales – especially the Disneyfied ones like Alice and Peter Pan – but I am not sure they are the same genre at all. In Hungarian, we call them meseregény.”
“Meser . . . ,” Simplia began.
“Meseregény,” Csenge said slowly
“Meser . . . , meser . . . ”
“Tale-Novels!” Csenge said in a way that didn’t invite further lessons in Hungarian.
Simplia took a sip of tea, and Csenge continued.
“As for literary fairy tales, I have read some that I liked, but I think it is really hard to do them well – and by “well” I selfishly mean “good for oral telling.” They are either too convoluted or too saccharine, especially the 18th century ones.”
She picked up a couple more books.
“The modern ones are hit and miss too. Some are awesome, while some others are overly infantile. I like the ones that come with gorgeous illustrations…”
She handed Marni an artful volume from a Spanish publisher.
“…because they are their own visual-verbal experience.”
She gave the other to Fiona and picked up two more books.
“I have a few that I truly love – usually because they contain something that did not exist in tradition but that resonates with people anyway. I am thinking of Mr. Death and the Red-Headed Woman, and The Faun and the Woodcutter’s Daughter. Those are my favorites.”
She set the Barbara Leonie book back on the table and continued to hold up the Helen Eustis volume, making sure all could see the Reinhard Michl image of Maude Applegate kissing Mr. Death.
“Didn’t we see that in a used book store for $60?” Simplia whispered.
“Yeah,” Sagacia sighed.
Flossie Squashblossom, standing behind the Simpletons leaned over and murmured, “You should have bought it!”
Simplia turned around, her mouth open. “For sixty dollars?” she gasped.
“Yeah,” Flossie affirmed. “I’ve seen it for over $100.”
“Well, I guess that says something about the value of Literary Fairy Tales,” Sagacia said, louder, really, than she had intended.
Csenge quietly removed the precious volume from the table and slipped it back into her bookbag.
“Do y’all remember Mario in Maryland’s other question,” Sagacia asked. “Is the effect of a literary fairy tale is stronger because, well, maybe, you didn’t know it was a fairy tale until you were already into it?”
She looked around. “You weren’t expecting magic, so your resistance was down?”
“Could be,” Simplia added. “You mean, literary tales by modern writers, right? Not necessarily Meser. . . ,”
“Meseregény,” Csenge said.
“Meser . . .,” Simplia repeated.
“Tale-Novels,” Csenge said.
“Yeah. Anyone else have any opinions on them?” Simplia asked. She gestured toward the table, “Obviously we’ve all read plenty of them!”