The writing is perfect exactly to my taste It s beautiful and enchanting, but not overly complex or inaccessible The ordinary sits alongside the extraordinary, blurring the line between truth and fairytale And the sense of place in each tale is wonderful, whether it s Eastern Europe or the deep south In fact, there s a bit about Theodora Goss at the end of the book that sums up what I m trying to say Her stories often take place on the border between fantasy and reality, and reflect the influence of an Eastern European literary tradition that incorporates fantastic elements into otherwise realistic works That s exactly it You read this book, and you start to wonder whether it might be possible to learn witchcraft, or marry a bear It s wonderful, like falling into a dream.
My favourite stories, in the order they appear in the book Sleeping With BearsThe Wings of Meister WilhelmPip and the FairiesLessons With Miss Gray Here is an interesting collection of stories from Theodora Goss I would rate some as 3 star and some as 5 star so the aggregate score is 4 stars for the book.
The best and most personally meaningful was In the Forest of Forgetting In this story, the main character is in a dream like forest and can t remember who she is or why she is there She keeps meeting people that she vaguely recognizes as important people in her life but keeps moving deeper into the forest Several people try to convince her not to go too deep into the forest but she continues anyway The author subtly lets us know that this character is dying of cancer and is temporarily stuck between living an dying She must decide to either come back from the Forest of Forgetting to live, or continue her journey deeper into the forest.
A beautifully crafted collection of short stories, Theodora Goss In the Forest of Forgetting draws on fairy tale and mythological motifs in creative and unexpected ways While most, if not all, of the stories were amazing, these were the highlights of the book, at least in my opinion In the Forest of ForgettingIn the Forest of Forgetting, the story from which the book takes its title, is breathtaking and haunting A soberly enchanting allegory, it chronicles a woman s journey with breast cancer with sensitivity and poetry To my delight, I found that it was available to read online at the author s website and have included the link to it here In the Forest of ForgettingThe Rose in Twelve PetalsA kaleidoscopic version of the Sleeping Beauty story Goss wove the fairy tale with bit of history and then shifted everything just slightly The story s point of view also shifted among various characters, even the roses the grew in the Queen s garden, the castle itself and a stray dog that takes up residence in the enchanted castle while it s inhabitants sleep Miss Emily GrayA story that reminded me a bit of a fairy tale esque version of W W Jacobs s famous short story, the Monkey PawSleeping with BearsA charming if surreal take on the Goldilocks story which is also available to read online Sleeping With BearsLetters from BudapestA delightfully spooky tale about a young artist caught in the thrall of a sort of artistic succubus Overall, I enjoyed the way the author wove the mythic and the modern elements of her stories together and thought that her use of language was lyrical and beautiful There was a sense of Old World, Eastern European flavor to many of the stories that worked really well And the fact that certain names, places and images would appear like slightly altered echoes in multiple stories, intertwined the stories subtly together and made each story seem like a view into a kaleidoscope, something that took familiar components and then twisted them into something beautiful, unique and new At the end of the day, I simply loved this collection and can t wait to add it to my personal library.
What an absolutely remarkable collection of stories Remarkable, phenomenal, fantastic I could waste a day s worth of superlative adjectives on this book and Goss These stories are fairytales in the truest sense of the genre They call to mind Tolkien s quote on the origin of fairy stories Such stories have now a mythical or total unanalyzable effect they open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe So much in these stories straddle liminal spaces spaces between genres, between times, between the familiar and the strange There are the bones of recognizable tales like Bluebeard s Wife, Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty but they re so recast and reformed they merely suggest their antecedents These stories belong wholly to Goss mercurial and transformative mind The settings range from the reconstruction south, to Hungary behind the Iron curtain, to New York City, etc The forms of telling are myriad epistolary, expository, witness statements, remembrances and It is all so wondrously strange and yet that strangeness never runs rampant, instead it is constrained by Goss pellucid and controlled prose And in that act of constraint they become even dreamlike It is as if the straightforward nature of the prose lends the wildness of the story a framework of rationality that makes the mythic inhabitable Goss choice to reuses characters and settings across stories, yet not necessarily the events the characters experience in each store, compounds the collection s sense of otherness It both heightens the sense of familiarity given the remove from the characters history, as we know it, and the sense of strangeness I cannot recommend this collection enough Truly It is the most exciting thing I ve read in months The effect of reading these stories has slipped into my dreams the past two days I feel energized and inspired I m already budgeting to buy the rest of her books.
I love a good book of short stories, and these are exquisite Just the right blend of magical and unnerving, without being too weird, too overwhelming, or too depressing Highly recommended if you love Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Hand, or Kelly Link s short story collections.
This is a most excellent collection of sixteen not at all sweet but very literary fantasy short stories I found the use of language and vocabulary particularly appealing Many have mythological or traditional fairy tale foundations My favorites were the Emily Gray stories, and saw in them something of a foreshadowing of the Athena Club novels The stories all had a rather dark and bleak character and I could have done with a bit humor or a cheerful perspective at times, but enjoyed the book very much.
In the Forest of Forgetting is an anthology of beautiful, well crafted, and dreamlike short stories They exist on the edges of dream, fable, and folklore, each one a unique take on the fantastic With a very few words Theodora Goss takes us into visionary realms.
Dreams are central to these tales Some are explicitly about dreaming, like Professor Berkowitz Stands on the Threshold , while others draw heavily on dreams, dreamlike states, and visions, such as Conrad , Pip and the Fairies , Phalaenopsis , and Miss Emily Gray.
Others address politics and history, starting with the author s native Hungary in Letters from Budapest and A Statement in the Case Perhaps my favorite story in the collection Rose in Twelve Petals , is among other things a delicate alternate history, placing the Rumpelstilskin story in a world where Napoleon conquered Britain and the rest of Europe But folklore looms largest in Forest Many of these stories are retellings of fairy tales, or critiques of same, or feature fairy tale literacy as a major plot point Time and again one layer of civilization peels back to reveal a folkloric basis, as when a successful children s author turns out to be drawing on real fairies perhaps , or an arson and murder involves magical animals and people My story has the contours of a fairy tale begins the densely packed The Belt , which starts with a riff on fairy tales, moves to sexual fetishism of several stripes, then concludes with social revolution.
Time and again I was struck by well wrought passages Goss tone veers from wry amusement see the bear wedding story to cold insight to lyrical surrealism One becomes bored, eventually, even of penance Do not blame Sophia, Mada, Boredom is a healthy impulse It is a sign of the will to live Fear the man who is not bored by suffering 195 Sorrow a feeling of grief or melancholy A mythical city generally located in northern Siberia, said to have been visited by Marco Polo From Sorry, he took back to Italy the secret of making ice 44 There is a fascinating and deep focus on gender in these stories, an attraction to, yet desire to escape from girlhood and womanhood So much of the book focuses on objects and dynamics we normally assign to women s writing and concerns mother daughter relations, ballet, fears of being overweight, flowers, marriage, proper ways of being a lady Sometimes the characters seem immersed in this world with pleasure or at least careful attention, like the heroines in the first half of Lessons with Miss Gray Yet Goss is concerned with the ways these situations sour and demand escape, as with Miss Gray s conclusion, or the aching flights of Wings of Meister Wilhelm In the Forest of Forgetting follows a woman s visionary voyage as she suffers from cancer, each stage of her flight defined by her gendered roles, and often with beauty Lily With Clouds occurs from the point of view of a wealthy society woman, trying to cope with a black sheep sister who spends her life avoiding that privilege Women take center stage in these perfectly wrought stories.
Recommended for anyone interested in the contemporary short story, or fantasy, or gender, or simply fine reading.
originally posted on Short Story Review Theodora Goss is a master of place In all sixteen short stories included in her collection In the Forest of Forgetting, the setting, though often a fictional and fantastical place, is as vivid as the characters, many of whom are greatly affected by the places they inhabit In the introduction by Terri Windling, which gives an interesting biography of Goss and explores her historical context for the way she writes, Windling says, Goss is a travel guide across borders both real and imaginary borders of time, of gender, of genre, of landscape, of culture, and of expectation I couldn t put it better myself Goss does indeed eschew borders Her fiction crosses genre lines and is therefore difficult to categorize While the fantastical is always an element in her stories, it is often metaphor, or a subtle expression of her character s rich inner lives that manifests itself in reality And while Goss work is certainly fiction, her prose could be called a form of poetry The images she creates are certainly vivid enough.
The most poetic piece in the collection is The Rose in Twelve Petals, which revisits the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of each character involved the witch who curses Sleeping Beauty, the magician who alters the curse from death to sleep, the king and father, even the spinning wheel, the tower and the rose Goss structure is flawless there are twelve numbered sections, and each section is a point of view The unifying theme of each section, besides the Sleeping Beauty story itself, is the presence of the rose.
Goss also crosses borders of traditional story structure Often her stories are split into pieces that, by the end, form a whole Sometimes numbered, sometimes not, each section reads like a transition in the story and explores a refreshing view of the short story itself so often one assumes that short stories, unlike novels, do not contain parts Perhaps this is because the parts of a novel its chapters are obvious Goss makes it obvious that short fiction as well is capable of layers.
The collection as a whole contains many linking parts Many of the stories bleed into one another The character of Miss Gray, a dark Mary Poppins like woman, shows up in three stories, always when the other characters, particularly children, need her She grants wishes, though sometimes in unfavorable ways her magic comes with a price The story Lessons with Miss Gray revisits the lives of two of the characters from the World Fantasy Award nominated story The Wings of Mister Wilhelm and fills in the blanks regarding the back story of the characters.
In several other stories, character names are repeated Though the fact that they are the same character in both stories is never clarified, the repetition gives the impression that these stories must be related in some way Discovering the links between stories is rewarding The world of In the Forest of Forgetting feels as rich as the worlds of the stories inside And as mysterious.
Which brings me to the mystery of Goss fiction What I like most about her writing, and what makes her such an exciting writer to read, is that she never explains everything Though she certainly gives the reader enough information to form their own opinion of what exactly has occurred in many of these stories, she never answers every question There is no attempt on her part to tie up all her loose ends, a technique that I think engages the reader even in the story and makes things much interesting.
Other highlights of the collection include Pip and the Faeries, The Rapid Advance of Sorrow, and Letters from Budapest Contains the following stories, three of which are available online Also available online The Rapid Advance of Sorrow Sleeping with Bears Pip and the Fairies Not available online The Rose in Twelve Petals Professor Berkowitz Stands on the Threshold Lily, With Clouds Miss Emily Gray In the Forest of Forgetting Letters from Budapest The Wings of Meister Wilhelm Conrad A Statement in the Case Death Comes for Ervina The Belt Phalaenopsis Lessons with Miss Gray