A Personal History-with Fairy Tales
by Sabrina Orah Mark
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Pub Date 14 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2023
Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House
“One of the most inventive, phenomenally executed books I’ve read in decades.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
The literary tradition of the fairy tale has long endured as the vehicle by which we interrogate the laws of reality. These fantastical stories, populated with wolves, kings, and wicked witches, have throughout history served as a template for understanding culture, society, and that muddy terrain we call our collective human psyche. In Happily, Sabrina Orah Mark reimagines the modern fairy tale, turning it inside out and searching it for the wisdom to better understand our contemporary moment in what Mark so incisively calls “this strange American weather.”
Set against the backdrop of political upheaval, viral plague, social protest, and climate change, Mark locates the magic in the mundane and illuminates the surreality of life as we know it today. She grapples with a loss of innocence in “Sorry, Peter Pan, We’re Over You,” when her son decides he would rather dress up as Martin Luther King, Jr., than Peter Pan for Halloween. In “The Evil Stepmother,” Mark finds unlikely communion with wicked wives and examines the roots of their bad reputation. And in “Rapunzel, Draft One Thousand,” the hunt for a wigmaker in a time of unprecedented civil unrest forces Mark to finally confront her sister’s cancer diagnosis and the stories we tell ourselves to get by.
Revelatory, whimsical, and utterly inspired, Happily is a testament to the singularity of Sabrina Orah Mark’s voice and the power of the fantastical to reveal essential truths about life, love, and the meaning of family.
“Mark writes with profound curiosity, attentive awe, and a poet’s magnifying vision. Seamlessly, Mark’s imagination makes new the ancient and oft-told.”
“I love Mark’s wise gorgeous Paris Review column, so I can’t wait to get my hands on the memoir-in-essays that sprang from it. Happily explores the perpetual relevance of fairy tales to contemporary life. Mark weaves fairy tale logic into stories from her own life to create an insightful examination of both the specific and the universal. In her hands, I look forward to spending time with both the fantastical and the beautifully mundane.” –Lit Hub
“People turn to fairy tales because they want to understand the “muddy terrain of the human psyche,” writes poet and Paris Review columnist Mark (Wild Milk) in her probing memoir-in-essays… Mark’s sharp analysis captures the “cultural resilience” of fairy tales, and her writing hums with lyrical self-reflection (“I was the rattle-ghost that disrupted my friend’s kingdom”). Readers will find this full of insight.” –Publishers Weekly
“Each [essay] up a different fairy tale, or set of tales, making clever, lyrical, sometimes-disturbing connections… Sprinkle these clever essays like breadcrumbs through the forest of your days.” –Kirkus Reviews