Reveal both the serendipity and treachery of contemporary life ... The essays evoke the intimacy of direct address and confession ... Mark, too, repeatedly asks questions, a device that grows thin over time. But fairy tales are inherently repetitious, and her questions and circular language...echo their stylistic rhythms ... Mark finds that instead of distorting reality, fairy tales bring the absurdity of life into greater focus with grace, humor and gravity. Her essays reveal the lessons they teach us well into adulthood.
Happily can put a spell on you: Mark’s voice is wry, honest, paranoid, angry, selfish, grateful, hopeful and antsy. She repeatedly rejects the clean, tidy stories we tell about our lives ... The sweetness of fairy tales — where princesses are awakened by a kiss, where children frolic in candy-sweet lands, where animals are anthropomorphic guides — is turned inside out through Mark’s writing, revealing a harsher side to the stories ... Mark’s reliance on the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and other fairy tale references makes her world feel tight and narrow. So, too, do the thinkers on whom she draws, among them Gertrude Stein, Carlo Levi, Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx. As expansive as these references and connections are, they never seem to pull Mark out of her own worldview. I found myself wanting — perhaps mostly for her husband and boys — some greater attention to the wider world ... There are stories there that Mark might have drawn on, and others from beyond its borders: in Anansi stories and Ghanaian folk tales, for example. But little of that finds purchase in Happily, which instead relies mostly on the more familiar structures of European narrative and thought ... The world is already terrible, which might mean that the best spells wouldn’t be those that simply reveal it in its ugliness but those that replace it with something beautiful, hopeful. Happily doesn’t quite seem capable of summoning those sentiments, reluctant as Mark seems to be to reach beyond her own kingdom of stories.
verall, there is more observation and analysis than storytelling, and each essay does sort of the same thing. If you wolf it down, the gambit becomes repetitive. Sprinkle these clever essays like breadcrumbs through the forest of your days.