Date read: 1.7.09
Read from: The Journal of Mythic Arts
More fairy tales, finally! I’m backed up on reviews to the point of – well, I’m always backed up on reviews, but I’m feeling particularly guilty about not getting to reviews of all the nifty short stories, fairy-tale-inspired and otherwise, that I’ve been reading this winter.
Shweta Narayan’s “Half Flight” is an odd little retelling of one of my absolute favorite fairy tales, also featuring a brief cameo by a visitor from one of my absolute favorite folk tales. (Glancing at her website bio, we share an interest in liminal characters – “shapeshifters and halfbreeds,” as she puts it – so there you go.) I hate to describe something as “odd” because it seems like a cop-out, but “Half Flight” is, somehow and pleasingly, a little off-kilter. I think it might in fact come from that little folkloric intrusion, although again, intrusion is the wrong word. The meeting of the two strands of story feels organic and intuitive, and enrichens both of the characters in question, as well as the particular psychological narrative that Narayan pursues. When I reached that bit, I almost skimmed over it, did a double-take, read it again more closely, and then thought, “of course.”
Although her imagery could use sharpening and intensifying, since the language occasionally falls flat, the tale as a whole succeeds in being thoughtful and tender without excessive sentimentality. The last line did raise my hackles a little; last-line clunkers are terribly hard to avoid when you’re going for “tender.” Regardless, Narayan is successful in conveying an unsettling desperation and psychological fragility under the measured, dispassionate narration, and I was deeply satisfied by the new sense that her telling brings to the archetypes and narratives that it plays with.
“An Old-Fashioned Unicorn’s Guide to Courtship,” by Sarah Rees Brennan (2008) [E]
Winter is for fairy tales
5 thoughts on ““Half Flight,” by Shweta Narayan (2008) E”
Oh, wow, that was lovely, albeit sad and haunting. I think I missed the folk-tale reference though. Which one is it?
His swan-bride, with her stolen cloak of feathers. :)
I figured it was the bride, but either I’ve never read her story or I’m completely blanking on it.
It’s a variation on the selkie/mermaid wife tale. There are also Chinese, Korean, and Japanese analogues in which she’s an angel, or the kingfisher’s daughter. I guess the latter would be the closest here, since she has her feather robe or cloak stolen.
Okay–have read but didn’t make the connection. Thanks!