Monday, May 28, 2007

Fairy Tales With A Twist

"The Painted Wall and other strange tales" by Michael Bedard is a collection of Pu Songling's 7th century Chinese folk and fairy tales adapted into short stories for a young adult audience. It's tumbler of Grimm's fairy tales with a twist of "Twilight Zone".

My first experience with a Pu Songling story was the 1987 film "Chinese Ghost Story" starring Leslie Cheung as an inexperienced tax collector who encounters a beautiful woman, an evil tree demon and a wise old monk. The movie was smart, sexy and packed with stunning action sequences. It was great Hong Kong cinema and a fairly close adaptation of Pu Songling's "The Magic Sword". While that is not one of the stories in this collection, there are 23 others to enjoy in this collection.

Bringing Pu Songling's classic stories to a young adult audience isn't easy, even word for word translations of the stories do not have their original subtleties or nuance. Cultural differences are as unavoidable as they are unexplained. The protagonist of every story is male. The villain of every story is either female or a wealthy person. Bedard does accomplish the goal in spite of all this. What really works about this collection is everything else - the originality of the tales themselves, the compactness of the writing, the diversity of the stories, and the rare opportunity to read tales of this kind.


Katie M. said...

I will have to check this one out. I've been reading a lot of Asian themed things of late... mostly Japanese. Sounds good Don, thanks for the review. :)

Mel Odom said...

Hadn't heard of this one. I'll have to check it out. I've seen CHINESE GHOST STORY. I also recommend South Korea's film, R-POINT (, a movie set during the Vietnam War that deals with vampires. An editor recommended this one to me.