We see the words "fairy tale," and we automatically think of a frivolous, fluffy piece of fantasy. Scratch the surface, however, and we learn the fairy tale contains all the stuff our dreams and nightmares are made of, all the stuff of life: birth, death, love, lust, starvation, humiliation, triumph, victory, and defeat. Like our cherished religious mythologies, fairy tales tell us who we are at our very centers and what we might need...or secretly desire. It's only appropriate, then, that fairy tales grow up with us, and make the transition to our adult bedtime stories.
Cleis Press seems to be particularly talented in this field. First Cleis brought us Mitzi Szereto's In Sleeping Beauty's Bed, a fun collection of naughty fairy tales set in a faraway land of a long time ago. Fairy Tale Lust is something different. Yes, some of the tales are set in a faraway land of long, long ago, but there are also contemporary tales so realistically told they might be happening next door, right now.
It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite from among this seductive collection of folkloric fantasies. "How the Little Mermaid Got Her Tail Back" is as beguiling as a siren. "Three Times" is breathtaking. "The Return" is a special kind of verbal enchantment, as is editor Kristina Wright's "In the Dark Woods," a modern-day morality play that plays out on a mattress. Cute comes into this fairy tale collection: see, for example, Jeremy Edwards' twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. More often than not, though, cute is merely an enticing cover for the hidden well of deep, dark human fantasy.