Brain Pickings

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Modernist Fairy Tales

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There’s hardly a genre older and more familiar yet timeless and relentlessly captivating than the fairy tale, and no one breathes new air into this classic blend of folklore and morality better than author and editor Kate Bernheimer. Her latest gem, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales is an ambitious anthology of 40 modernist fairy tales inspired by classic folktales from around the world and organized roughly by country of origin. With stories by some of today’s greatest fiction writers, including Neil Gaiman, Michael Cunningham, Aimee Bender and Lydia Millet, the book is a literary treasure chest, like the one in your grandmother’s attic where the whimsical and the macabre come to life on cold winter evenings as logs crackle in the fireplace downstairs.

Once you start looking, it is easy to see the variety — the sheer fractal ferocity — and intelligence of fairy tales. This collection contains stories reflective of current trends; it also contains stories told in more linear, straightforward ways. Some of the selections pay homage to midcentury and later styles; others come poetically through modes associated with the tradition of oral folklore. You will find stories that hew closely to their enchantment, and others that announce hardly any magic — until you encounter a tiny keyhole in the wall of their language. In each instance, you will easily enter these secret gardens.” ~ Kate Bernheimer

Beautifully written and utterly enchanted, the stories draw on everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s and Brothers Grimm’s classics to the popular entertainment of medieval Japan to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino. Brimming with dark whimsy and gorgeous grotesqueness, the imaginative tome is an absolute treat for readers of all ages — so go ahead and treat yourself.

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Stack, a Curated Selection of Beautiful Magazines

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We’ve been longtime fans of Stack, a periodic mailing of beautiful, hard-to-find independent magazines bundled with posters, zines and various other print treasures. Originally founded in the UK, Stack launched an American edition last year and has been delivering intelligently curated creative treats since, in a fine example of what we’ve termed “controlled serendipity” — the holy grail of content discovery. It also embodies our ethos of cross-disciplinary curiosity through meticulous, thoughtful curation — a true fountain of youth for the life of the creative mind.

The best independent magazines are inspiring, beautiful, amazing — and often really hard to obtain. I started Stack America to get these remarkable magazines into the hands of people who will love them. And hopefully keep reading, and keep them alive!” ~ Andrew Losowsky

It works like this: Once you subscribe, you have no idea what you’re going to get in each mailing — you simply place your trust in the curatorial judgement of Andrew and the Stack team, then keep an excited eye on your mailbox. In the first year, they sent out 14 exceptional publications to its subscribers, ranging from stylized design and cycling culture mag Embrocation to meat culture journal Meatpaper to architectural entertainment pub Pin-Up to Southern literary compendium Oxford American, for a total value of $132 and a priceless dose of mental stimulation.

Stack also commissions and sends out exclusive, original prints created by the top editorial design teams from leading publications like Fortune, Time Out New York and Bloomberg Businessweek.

In a way, Stack is like the blind date yenta whose every match turns into a passionate love affair, helping fantastic magazines find an audience who will love them. In a troubled publishing industry, Stack may just be the last saving grace of the relationship between the reader and the print magazine, using the vibrant medley of cross-disciplinary interestingness to keep things spicy.

Stack is the perfect gift for the creative thinker in your life — or a fantastic present to yourself for the new year. Six-month subscriptions start at $44.99 and annual ones at $71.99, but the fine folks at Stack America have offered an exclusive discount for Brain Pickings readers — get it here.

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ABC NYC: The Language of New York’s Found Typography

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Between our unabated obsession wtih all things alphabet and our choice of I LEGO N.Y. as the best quasi-children’s book of the year, it’s no surprise that ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City hits the sweet spot. Though designed as a learning tool for toddlers, the book is a typography lover’s wet dream — a stunning celebration of the alphabet’s visual diversity, as seen on the streets of New York. Ten years in the making, the book features remarkable vintage urban typography, from graffiti to subway signs, captured across New York’s five boroughs by photographer Joanne Dugan.

To sweeten the treat, Dugan has made the letters available for purchase not only as full alphabet sets, but also as self-adhesive, eco-friendly individual prints to spell your way to home decor bliss.

ABC NYC has an equally wonderful number-centric companion, naturally titled 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City — a vibrant counting book exploring the city through its rich numerical iconography. A portion of profits from both books is donated to nonprofits promoting education and literacy.

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