Author Topic: Pseudopod 189: Gretel  (Read 8596 times)


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on: April 09, 2010, 05:58:02 AM
Pseudopod 189: Gretel

By Camille Alexa
Read by Claudia Smith

He was tall and quiet, and thinner even than Gretel. Cigarette burn scars covered one cheek, and he was blind in his left eye from an especially bad night with his father. Gretel thought he was beautiful.

You’re beautiful, he told her later that night, after her stepmother had driven away and Brykerwoods orderlies had taken Gretel’s leather jacket and the contents of her pockets… but not the lipstick tube they hadn’t found in her bra. After she’d found him, like an uncharted territory, or an undiscovered planet, sitting on the dirty white linoleum next to a vacant chair in an empty TV room without a television. After she’d had handed him one hit of acid and placed the other under her tongue. You’re beautiful.

I’m not, she said. My front teeth jut like fallen tombstones. My nose is the size of a bus and my hair is like strips of rotting bacon and my eyes are small and brown as rabbit turds. You must be tripping.

And he said, I am, but that’s not why I like you.

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Reply #1 on: April 09, 2010, 01:03:27 PM
I think this story might have been better if read with an American accent, since it takes place in the US. The reading was good, but it would be like me reading a story that takes place in Ireland and has all Irish characters.

I don't know that it really covered a ton of new ground -- fairy tale characters as teenagers or mental patients or some other contemporary character, the witch's house not really made of candy but just looking like it, drugs instead of a true witch-world (although the witch clearly was some kind of supernatural being), the fire being an accident... Still, the prose was good.

I think the draw of fractured fairy tales isn't so much covering new ground, though, as the new way the fairy-tale ending will be addressed -- how will the witch be thrown into the oven? what's the true story of Rapunzel's hair? who was the real Big Bad Wolf and did he boink Little Red Riding Hood?

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Reply #2 on: April 10, 2010, 12:30:00 PM
Enjoyable. A well-written story with good creeps.


Did this really offer a new take on the original? It seemed to me exactly the same as before, dressed in contemporary clothes. I'm not a big fan of "re-imagining" traditional fairy tales -- it takes something pretty exceptional to impress me. To contrast: whilst I didn't particularly like PC067 "Kissing Frogs", it does offer a modern twist on the original, a different sensibility. I felt this one did not do that.

Again: well-written and enjoyable. Just not what I would call a different interpretation of the original.


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Reply #3 on: April 10, 2010, 08:41:17 PM
I love re-tellings. And although the ground covered by this tale was eerily familiar I truly enjoyed it. The strangeness of the world occupied by these characters was interesting enough to hold me every moment.

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Reply #4 on: April 11, 2010, 06:59:49 AM
Yay!  A call out for THE BLOODY CHAMBER, one of my all-time favorite story collections.  Angela Carter rules!


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Reply #5 on: April 12, 2010, 01:59:42 PM
Well-written, as I've come to expect from Camille Alexa, but I didn't think it offered something new.  It's not that I dislike re-imagined fairy tales (having done some myself), but I think they need to offer some new insight or large changes.  This one didn't really do that for me.  It had some interesting changes, with them being teens in love instead of siblings, and the drugs, and the contemporary setting, but after the first couple minutes everything else was predictable.  If the beginning is that much different, then the end should be different too in some way.


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Reply #6 on: April 13, 2010, 03:24:54 AM
I think the real meat of "Hansel and Gretel" is the perfidy of the father and stepmother, and that whole aspect somehow got dropped here.  The emphasis on inner beauty and self-sacrifice seems more like the theme of "Beauty and the Beast" than "Hansel and Gretel."  I feel like we danced toward it now and then, with the reference to the soldiers' sickness, but then we veered away from that sort of "sins of the father" motif and went back to altruism and love-despite-appearances.

It was fun, and I enjoyed it.  I wouldn't give it full marks, though, as it just didn't seem to ever hit its stride.  Others have suggested it didn't bring enough creativity to the retelling; I think the muddling of the themes might have more to do with it, and I'm sure others have their own biases and preferred modes of interpretation.  Somehow, though, it didn't seem to get all the way there.  A hint of a limp.  A slightly off-key note. 


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Reply #7 on: April 18, 2010, 11:28:26 PM
I didn't like it.  I can't give any real particulars as to why, but it may have something to do with my general distaste for re-makes and re-tellings, mainly because so few of them are worthwhile.

I agree with Scattercat, that the whole "you're beautiful" repeated ad nauseum didn't feel very "Hansel and Gretel" at all.


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Reply #8 on: April 19, 2010, 01:07:14 PM
This was nothing like that one Baba Yaga re-telling that Pseudopod had up a while back. I feel as though this story was too similar to the first one. Drug use can be pretty scary. At the end of the story, though I felt like the opium didn't alter the original story too much. This kind of makes me wonder what the point of the whole thing was. I think if the witch had actually managed to eat them, the story would have had a bit more punch. Then it would have been different. This story is a C+ to me.

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Reply #9 on: April 19, 2010, 01:45:56 PM
Hello Count, and indeed everyone else:)  Just a reminder that we'd prefer, strongly, if people didn't grade stories.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


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Reply #10 on: April 19, 2010, 10:54:49 PM
Found this one totally underwhelming.  A lot of the description was totally overwrought and, in the begining, our narrator struggled to convincingly read some of the crammed sentences.  This was a pretty classic example of trying to force too much information into too short a space (a particularly egregious example was the run-on description of the little sex-shed behind the sanitarium and the old field which were crammed in and totally distrupted the action).

Furthermore, I felt it a little unbelieveable as Gretel never questioned the reality of the bizarre little house and the witch.  Wouldn't most of us be like "WTF?  This CAN'T be real!  She wants to f**king EAT you?!"

Finally, I think its biggest flaw was the way it brought nothing new to the table.  The action was predictable and followed the plot of the Grimm tale to the letter.  Ho-hum.

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Reply #11 on: April 21, 2010, 01:47:43 AM
I rather liked this one.  Maybe it was the mood I was in.  I was tired and the pretty morbidness of the story was a nice escape.
  Also I enjoy seeing multiple versions of the same idea, so a retelling of fairy tales hit the spot as well.


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Reply #12 on: April 21, 2010, 06:40:28 PM
there's definitely a case to be made that this story follows the original fairy tale too closely but there are some nice touches.

the trail of pills that gets eaten by the orderlies so they can't find their way out of the woods again, the analogy of drug abuse to getting lost in the woods, the witch (market) created from soldiers' addiction to injection drugs, the theme of a man in a hole.