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Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

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Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

4/5 (4 valoraciones)
185 página
44 minutos
Mar 29, 2011


An imaginative, hauntingly poetic collection of contemporary fables that redefine the fairy tale for the modern woman.
In Kate Bernheimer’s familiar and spare—yet wondrous—world, an exotic dancer builds her own cage, a wife tends a secret basement menagerie, a fishmonger’s daughter befriends a tulip bulb, and sisters explore cycles of love and violence by reenacting scenes from Star Wars.
Enthralling, subtle, and poetic, this collection of eight tales takes readers back to the age-old pleasures of classic fairy tales and makes them new. Their haunting lessons are an evocative reminder that cracking open the door to the imagination is no mere child’s play, and that delight and tragedy lurk in every corner.
“Each of these spare and elegant tales rings like a bell in your head. memorable, original, and not much like anything you’ve read.” —Karen Joy Fowler
“These stories are the product of a vivid imagination and crafty manipulation by their skillful creator.” —Publishers Weekly
“A strange and enchanting book, written in crisp, winning sentences; each story begs to be read aloud and savored.” —Aimee Bender
Horse, Flower, Bird rests uneasily between the intersection of fantasy and reality, dreaming and wakefulness, and the sacred and profane. Like a series of beautiful but troubling dreams, this book will linger long in the memory. Kate Bernheimer is reinventing the fairy tale.” —Peter Buck, R.E.M.
“Quirky, twisted. . . . Quietly unhinged narratives by an author who reinvents the fairy tale.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[Bernheimer’s] strangely moving stories, such as the eight collected in Horse, Flower, Bird, combine fantasy with deep wisdom; the illustrations by Rikki Ducornet are an added delight.” —Reader’s Digest
“Imaginative. . . . Lean and lyrical writing. . . . Bernheimer’s passion for fairy tales is evident in every story she spins.” —Library Journal
Mar 29, 2011

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Horse, Flower, Bird - Kate Bernheimer


COPYRIGHT © 2010 by Kate Bernheimer



AUTHOR PHOTO © Emily Wittman

Coffee House Press books are available to the trade through our primary distributor, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, www.cbsd.com or (800) 283-3572. For personal orders, catalogs, or other information, write to: info@coffeehousepress.org.

Coffee House Press is a nonprofit literary publishing house. Support from private foundations, corporate giving programs, government programs, and generous individuals helps make the publication of our books possible. We gratefully acknowledge their support in detail in the back of this book.

To you and our many readers around the world,

we send our thanks for your continuing support.


Bernheimer, Kate.

Horse, flower, bird : stories / by Kate Bernheimer.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-56689-247-6 (alk. paper)

ISBN 978-1-56689-282-7 (ebook)

1. Fairy tales—Adaptations. I. Title.

PS3602.E76H67 2010




Stories from this collection have appeared, or are forthcoming, in the following publications. The author expresses her gratitude to the supportive editors of: 3rd Bed, 5_Trope, Born Magazine, A Galaxy Not So Far Away, Filter, The Portland Mercury, The Press Gang, Radical Society, Sou’Wester, Western Humanities Review, and Tin House.

A Cuckoo Tale

A Tulip’s Tale

A Doll’s Tale

A Petting Zoo Tale

A Cageling Tale

A Garibaldi Tale

A Star Wars Tale


Shall we let them have a little music? asked Emily, and she wound up the musical box. It went tinkle, tinkle and Darner stirred in his dreams.

Mr. Plantaganet could not tell one of its tunes from the other. I have to have words, said Mr. Plantaganet. Words help me to know what it is. Like those carols, Tottie. Do you remember them? And he began to hum God Bless the Master of This House. Do you remember them, Tottie?

I remember everything, said Tottie, listening to the music.

Yes, I suppose you must, and for so long, said Mr. Plantaganet. Such a long time, Tottie.

Yes, said Tottie.

Things come and things pass, said little Mr. Plantaganet.

Everything, from trees to dolls, said Tottie.

Even for small things like us, even for dolls. Good things and bad things, but the good things have come back, haven’t they, Tottie? asked Mr. Plantaganet anxiously.

Of course they have, said Tottie in her kind wooden voice.

Good things and bad. They were very bad, said Mr. Plantaganet.

But they come and pass, so let us be happy now, said Tottie.

Without Birdie? asked Mr. Plantaganet, his voice trembling.

Birdie would be happy. She couldn’t help it, said Tottie.

And Birdie’s bright tinkling music went on in the doll’s house, and on her hat that still hung in the hall, and on her feather broom, and on her bird, and on her parasol, the colors and the patterns were still bright.


The Doll’s House

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who liked to atone. She especially liked The Day of Atonement. Atoning, she felt at one.

On that glorious day every year, with the leaves in colors

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4 valoraciones / 3 Reseñas
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  • (5/5)
    A delightful little gem of a book. Difficult to describe, definitely not for every reader, but a real find for the reader who likes quirky books.
  • (3/5)
    The Brothers Grimm cornered the market on fairy tales, and the original versions of them were often dark...far more frightening than the sanitized versions found in modern children's books. This collection of short stories by Kate Bernheimer entitled Horse, Flower, Bird is a dark collection of tales as well...not suitable for children, because under the seemingly simple stories lies a violent understory. The combination is disconcerting, and makes you wonder how the elements of fear and innocence could be combined so artfully.I can't think of any short stories that are like this...the images create an almost instantaneous shot of pain, like a paper cut, when you grasp the author's meaning. For example, in "A Cuckoo Tale", a little girl speaks innocently of her feelings of guilt and anxiety (she didn't call it that) in a religious sense, so different from her Catholic friend. "There was no talk of heaven or hell in the girl's household. It was all about pogroms and rape." While she tries to live a child's life, visions of Jews herded into ovens fill her too-young imagination. She wonders why no one helped Anne Frank, who she calls "the girl who kept the diary."In "A Doll's Tale", a little girl receives a beautiful doll as a gift...a doll far prettier than she. She didn't like it, and so "confused by this feeling-for Astrid was a kind and gentle being-her ambivalence became a kind of devotion." Her true feelings are revealed when she dumps it down a laundry chute. However, the loss of it soon leaves her lonely, and she invents an invisible-friend. There's no joy there, as the 'friend' suddenly disappears. A painfully memorable picture is created when her and her father drive around, looking for the beloved invisible friend:"This second loss proved too much for her, really. Doll-less, invisible friend-less, finally more comfortable in fear than in gladness, Astrid began to live in her head...To outsiders, this...lent her a remarkably pleasing air, since she never had reason to interrupt anyone's talking." Kate Bernheimer Even what promises to be an amusing story of little girls playing Jedi's from Star Wars takes a darker turn, when their imagination, fed by the careless conversations of adults, suddenly creates a world far more violent and ugly than the movie. The stories, while diverse and mysterious, all contain a theme of the loss of innocence. And the source of such loss seems to be the a child's view of the world where an active imagination and lack of experience create troubling and sometimes dangerous visions. Sometimes the simplest words can create a landscape of horror.
  • (4/5)
    This is a strange book. I mean that in the sense of curious or intriguing, and not in the sense of bizarre or alien.It is deceptively simple: eight short stories, told in very clear and spare English, full of what seem to be unambiguous events. Why, then, did I finish each one and find myself wondering exactly what had been said? They read just like fairy tales, with that dreaming-while-awake sensation, but there's little in the way of the supernatural...certainly no magic beans or sleep-inducing spindles. Unlike, say, reading the Brothers Grimm, you have to work at these. You don't get to the end and say, "Ah, well, Hansel and Gretel certainly tricked the witch, didn't they?" You glimpse swells under the surface: the unnerving voicelessness of characters, the sense that they are handicapped or perhaps not quite sane. You see fairy tale motifs turned on their heads as so many of the girls voluntarily take on their mistreatments: the starvation, the harsh burlap clothing. You see those swells, you notice those themes, and you wonder what else is down there below the surface.This isn't a book for everyone. You have to be willing to read it...and think about it...and then have something else occur to you...and think some more. This is a review full of questions and that's exactly where that book leaves you.