Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Melanie Reviews: Snow Glass Apples

Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman
Wood carvings by George Walker
Pages: 44
Publisher:Biting Dog Publications
Released: 2011

Reviewed by Melanie Page

“It is always wise to hear both sides of a story before we cast judgment: this is something that is greatly lacking in our culture of one sided views.” -- George Walker

Snow Glass Apples is originally a play for voices, like an audio play. There are voice actors, sound effects, and music to set the mood. The plot is a re-telling of Snow White from the queen’s perspective. It turns out, the princess was not a pale, sweet, animal-loving girl; she’s something of a vampire, and sexual one at that.

The book is introduced by Professor Jack Zipes, who doesn’t give much of the story away like many poorly-written intros, but uses literary theorists to discuss the Snow White tale. We love the Disney version, but in the pivotal text Madwoman in the Attic, the authors argue that Snow White is about an angel and devil that battle it out for an absent dad’s attention. Anne Sexton theorized that Snow White would eventually grow older and have a child, which could start the whole process of hating the newer, younger child just like the stepmother did; it’s an unending cycle. Zipes gives us lots to think about before we read without spoiling the story.

If you’re familiar with theater, Snow Glass Apples isn’t difficult to digest. The queen’s present voice is in red, her telling of the past in black. We’re given cues like ETX, INT, SFX. If you don’t know much about theater, it might be hard to imagine how this play would be presented to the audience. Perhaps that is why Biting Dog Publications made a print copy.

The press didn’t simply transcribe the play to paper. Included are gorgeous black-and-white wood carvings that use strong lines, crosshatching, and negative space to present images like shadows in pain. Because I was so focused on Snow Glass Apples being for my ears while I’m actually reading, it was hard to really appreciate the art. I could image, though, sitting in a theater with only these images projected on the stage while I listened to the play. That would be superb.

Gaiman carefully gets around moments in the story that would be much more striking if seen by having the Queen describe what she sees in her mirror. When the annual Spring Fair had a paltry attendance, the “LORD OF THE FAIR” told the Queen there could be no more; all the merchants would starve from lack of sales. It turned out the princess, who is traditionally thought dead but then actually playing housewife with seven dwarves, was in the forest draining everyone’s blood. The queen confirmed the princess was alive when she scried in her mirror: she was drinking from a friar who had plied her with a penny for sexual favors.

“She sank her teeth deep into his breast. His eyes opened, then they closed again, and she drank. She straddled him, and she fed. As she did so a thin blackish liquid began to dribble from between her legs...”

Gaiman’s clever technique left me surprised by what I didn’t even see for myself.

We’re lulled into a “once upon a time” story that in short order creates sexual unease: the perverted friar, a vampire princess who drains her father from his thighs and genitals, a prince who wants to have sex with cold and inanimate women. My brain is reeling from the quick advances of a church man, but also the suggestion that the prince’s sexual desires can represent necrophilia, or the cold, lifeless plastic of a Barbie, which ties in current culture to an old fairy tale. They layers Gaiman piles up is certainly brain food.

Melanie Page has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is an adjunct instructor in Indiana. She is the creator of Grab the Lapels, a site that publishes book reviews and interviews of folks who identify as women at grabthelapels.com.

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