The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Mallory Ortberg
To Be Published: March 2018
Thanks to Disney’s whimsical remakes of capital “R” Romantic folklore, my only childhood exposure to fairytales was cheerful princesses singing their way to happy endings surrounded by industrious animal friends. But we’re all adults here. I think by now, we all know these are just sugar-coated versions of some pretty gnarly source material.
The Merry Spinster meets us somewhere in the middle with 11 twisted versions of well known fables and fairy tales that are somehow as playful as they are sinister. The shorts are adapted from Mallory Ortberg’s series Children’s Stories Made Horrific from the now defunct temporarily offline The-Toast.net1. It’s certainly not required that you know the OG classical versions of the stories to understand what’s going on, but it can’t hurt (so here they are!) As with any sort of parody, the better the grasp you have on what is being referenced, the more you’ll get to wryly smirk to yourself as you read along.
|“The danger of silence is that someone who wishes to hear a yes will not go out of his way to listen for a no.
– “The Six Boy-Coffins”, The Merry Spinster 2
If scary stories aren’t really your jam, just know that these aren’t necessarily as gruesome as fairy tales of yore (…okay, maybe some are). Rather, they’re well-crafted and sly in their horror– the truly chilling undercurrents are the social mores, the patriarchy, and what we endure in the name of love. This is where Ortberg’s particular brand of dry dark comedy really shines through. Much like her debut book, Texts from Jane Eyre, the language and style remain faithful to originals, a truly gritty homage.
Reading through past interviews, I feel like Ortberg’s love for the title might be what willed the rest of the book into existence. It’s super fitting too: the Merry Spinster archetype may be the only uplifting motif running through these bleak pages. So on that note, here’s a quote from the author explaining the concept beautifully:
“I would always love for my next book to be a light comic novella called The Merry Spinster and to explore those themes of glorious female solitude. I think female solitude is a mental condition as well as a physical state. You can be married and a spinster. I think spinster is an identity every woman can claim, if she will. … I feel like a lot of women, or a lot of feminists, joke about taking to the sea or living alone in a cottage as this kind of fun freedom.”
// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an advanced readers copy and may not be final. Please refer to a finished copy.
1. The Toast is dead, long live The Toast…You’d better believe as soon as it’s back online I’m linking the shit out of it.
2. This is a random art card from the Smith-Waite tarot deck and has nothing to do with the book, but I tweaked it a teensy bit and now it’s just PERFECT you’ll see.