Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, published by Penguin (ISBN 014017821x), tells a selection of fairy tales; however, like Emily Dickenson's suggestion for truth, she tells them slant. These are tales in wolves' clothing, wearing originals skinned and not quite as expected. Ms. Carter delivers an Victorian panorama of beastly suitors, ruby necklaces that mock mortality; yet, her women survive seductions, becoming neither frail ghosts nor wanton puppets. Her language retains a stately pace but doesn't forsake modern metaphor.
This is not a book to take in at one sitting. The tales themselves repeat situations and themes, although not in exactly the same way, and the pacing itself grasps at the reader's ankles like mud from a moor. This works against the longest tale in the collection, the titular "The Bloody Chamber." Although the images were finely tuned (funeral lilies decking a bridal bower, the grim pornographic boredom of the husband, and his signature scent of leather/flayed flesh), I found myself impatient and bereft of concern for the characters until the very end. The gem in this collection for me was the middle tale of the Erl King. This crumbling deity of a dying forest was powerful and dangerous and I found myself finally enchanted by the pace, drowned in the rotating pull of her imagery.
Be prepared for tales that read as if drawn from a diary, with skipping fragments, fantastic and baroque images, and a graphic dream physicality. There is none of the easy release of the typical romantic fairy tales. Although I found parts beautiful, my enjoyment was often confounded by the language. Readers who enjoy poetry and are looking for fairy tales for themselves and not their children may want to check out this collection.