The Lost Art of Finding Fairytales

Andrew David King
March 6, 2012
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From the beginning of “The Turnip Princess,” one of 500 fairytales collected by the historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in the 1800s and which, until now, had been locked away in archives for the past century and a half: “A young prince lost his way in the forest and came to a cave. He passed the night there, and when he awoke there stood next to him an old woman with a bear and a dog. The old witch seemed very beautiful and wished that the prince would stay with her and marry her. He could not endure her, yet could not leave that place…”

When old books meet digitization processes, a strange sort of magic ensues. Take a look at some transmissions from the place where old and new media collide, all under the auspices of human hands.

Controversy has been no stranger to Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert or J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield—or even to Bella Swan from Twilight. On the most divisive characters in literary history.

There’s plenty of new data about the statistical divide between men and women in publishing, but what to do about the gap?

Electronic publishing is making it easier for authors to edit their own works even after they’ve officially gone to “press.” And it’s also made it easier for third-party interests (whose motives may or may not be beneficial to the work in question) to reach in and edit, too.

(Image via The Art of Google Books)

Holland Taylor: “After all, a painting is a creation, a separate thing: there it is, outside you. It has boundaries and dimensions, it can be thought of quite separately from its creator. Not so acting; swirled together with its maker, the performance is hard to quantify, hard to assess, hard even to define. After all, at the most vulgar level, it’s walking and talking and occasionally chewing gum at the same time. Sometimes a woman’s beauty alone can make the performer ineffably persuasive. Was Garbo a great actress? Who the hell cares? She was transformative. And Laurette Taylor who could look like a pile of laundry—she left people shaken when they were in her audience. Who’s to say it’s any different?”

In the spirit of video games: a perplexing dive into the world of interactive fiction, where one writer governs another’s narrative. Prepare to get surreal.

William Drummond, Laird of Hawthornden, on Ben Jonson, after Jonson had stayed with him for a time: “He is a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and scorner of others, given rather to lose a friend than a jest, jealous of every word and action of those about him (especially after drink, which is one of the elements in which he liveth) . . . . He is passionately kind and angry, careless either to gain or keep, vindicative, but if be well answered, at himself.”

When we hear “Vitruvian Man,” we think of Leonardo da Vinci, though maybe we should think of Giacomo Andrea da Ferrara instead.

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