I was skeptical when I received a copy of Fairy Tales: Love, Hate & Hubris for review. I’m not big on poetry and know practically nothing about the structures, the formal construction and appreciation of poetry. But the book is a retelling or an alternate look at some popular fairytales. How could my love of stories (especially ones I grew up with) let that pass?
Fairy Tales: Love, Hate & Hubris is a collection of 16 poems. Each poem tries to approach the age-old story from a different angle. In most cases, this is through the eyes of another character (usually the antagonist). This itself is an ambitious undertaking. The first thing that struck me was, that a story is usually told from the perspective of one character. Simply relating the events through another character’s eyes can considerably shift the story experience. There is additional dimension added to the story itself, the extra detail in characters that may have hitherto been ignored and grey shades added to the insofar pristine main character. Any fiction-writer will tell you that doing voices, is a really tricky thing.You don’t always get it right. Neither does this book. It works in some cases and in others, it struggles.
Manoj Kewalramani, the author, does have a flair for dramatic endings with punchy lines. This ends most of the poems, even the not-so-good ones on a sweet note. This knack for smart lines & pretty thoughts also shows up in the middle of several poems. I quote,
“Threads, combs and fruits
I confess to such evil recruits”
Pacing on the other hand, feel a bit inconsistent with some of the poems laboring on while others smoothly carry you over pages, effortlessly. There are places where the words feel awkward, like they’ve been force-fitted in order to rhyme properly. And then there are poems that are absolute delights to read, for their easy pace and for their fun narrative.
My absolute favorite was ‘The narcissistic wolf‘. It had a strong voice; the character of the wolf really came alive. No liberties were taken with the familiar Red Riding Hood storyline but detailing the wolf’s words really added a new dimension to the story.
My second favorite was ‘The beauty of sleep‘. This one didn’t pick another character but extended the story after ‘happily ever after’. Briar Rose as a bored housewife? Now that would intrigue anybody.
The remaining all fall into a mixed responses category, all ambitious but falling just short bit here or lagging a tad there. Still, none of them miss the mark so badly as to be unreadable. At 80 pages, Fairy Tales: Love, Hate and Hubris is an easy read and a reasonably pleasant one at that.
Fairy Tales: Love, Hate and Hubris was written by Manoj Kewalramani, published by Leadstart Publishing and is available for Rs.145 or $12. It also retails on Flipkart for Rs.138. The book is also on Facebook. Manoj is on Twitter.