What if the Wind in the Willows was less of a warm-hearted tale about forest friends and more about a sinister plot to gaslight Mr. Toad? What if the Velveteen Rabbit was a cold-blooded sociopath intent on becoming Real, no matter the cost? The reimagined fairy tales in the Merry Spinster answer these questions and ones I didn't even know I had.— From Sarah C
From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from the beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, "The Merry Spinster" takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and the best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature has become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.
Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg's boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg's oeuvre will delight in this collection's unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.
Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.
Bed time will never be the same.
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"Starting this." —Lorde
"Empowering, subversive. . . .Daniel Mallory Ortberg twists fairy tales into elegant garrotes. . . .There's not a single weak link in the cat's-breath chain of this collection. . . .incredible." —The New York Times Book Review
"A wholly satisfying blend of silliness, feminist critique, and deft prose makes this a collection of bedtime stories that will keep you up at night for all the right reasons." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Ortberg’s sly, scathing renditions. . . .strike directly at the heart. . . . .The book brings the shock of the new and the shock of recognition into play at the same time; it’s a tour de force of skill, daring, and hard-earned bravura." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Dark and dreadful and persistently clever. Ortberg bloodily turns familiar tales inside out." —Rainbow Rowell, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of Carry On
"A collection of stories delectable, formidable, and nimble. As a fantasist and short story writer, Mallory Ortberg is without peer." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
"Dear Reader: It would, truthfully, be simplest to call the stories in THE MERRY SPINSTER ‘retellings,’ but that word does not adequately capture their dark alchemy. Mallory Ortberg has created a Frankenstein’s monster of familiar narratives. . .[that swings] between Terry Pratchett’s satirical jocularity and Angela Carter’s sinister, shrewd storytelling, and the result is gorgeous, unsettling, splenic, cruel, and wickedly smart. I’ve never read anything quite like them, and I bet, Dear Reader, that you haven’t either." —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties: Stories
"Mallory Ortberg has a voracious appetite for poison apples, and a genius for finding the places in fairyland where all the bodies are buried. The Merry Spinster will ruin your most-loved fables, in the best possible way." —Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
"The secret to THE MERRY SPINSTER, I think, is that she never wanted to be your wicked stepmother--she was too busy. There are uncanny slivers of delight and recognition mixed here with the wit we all love Ortberg for, but here that wit is wielded with new force. If fairy tales are ways to describe the rules we don't dare put down on paper, in her hands they become ways to challenge those, or even to write new rules. I don't know if these stories are for bedtimes, but they are for us." —Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night
"Mallory Ortberg has the sloe gin wit of Dorothy Parker and the soul of a Classics nerd. It’s like both of them sat next to each other in THE MERRY SPINSTER and gossiped away. The result is an absolute delight." —John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling author of Lock In and Redshirts
“Mallory Ortberg is a treasure. Her writing is often surreal and twisted, as when she imagines classic plots through a modern lens…THE MERRY SPINSTER takes a darker turn for the wryly funny Ortberg, as she retells fairy tales and folk legends.” —The AV Club
“Fairy tales get a feminist spin in this short story collection…This is...one with psychological horror and Ortberg’s signature snark…Can’t wait to ruin our favorite fables!” —The Millions
“THE MERRY SPINSTER is just the ticket for those who want bedtime reading that comes with a bite of subversive fun.” —Ms Magazine
“Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, THE MERRY SPINSTER updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.” —The Rumpus
“Ortberg’s uniquely hilarious voice lends itself well to the dark and twisted milieu of fairy and folk tales and her reimagining of classics is predictably perverse, but also offers wonderful insight into the reasons why humans are so drawn to these stories of horror and loss.” —NYLON
“The author of Texts from Jane Eyre returns with delightfully dark stories based on fairy tales.” —BookRiot
“We could not be more excited.” —The Huffington Post
“Look out, Angela Carter. There’s a new feminist fairy tale queen in town, and her imagination is as sharp as her wit. Ortberg, co-founder of the beloved website The Toast, takes her column ‘Children’s Stories Made Horrific” to new heights in this collection of twisted tales that will shock and delight you.” —Esquire
“I always want to dive into the mind of Mallory Ortberg (co-creator of The Toast). Adapted from her 'Children's Stories Made Horrific’ series, this book provides some updates to well-known children's stories that change them into something else entirely.” —Bustle
“Feminist fairy tales? Just what the doctor ordered. Texts From Jane Eyre and Dear Prudence agony aunt Mallory Ortberg conjures up the kinds of stories that will hopefully scary the bogeymen—with the emphasis on 'men'—away.” —ELLE
“Mischievous, unsettling, and often feminist, the stories in THE MERRY SPINSTER are a delightful, ingenious spin on beloved classics.” —Buzzfeed
"Beautifully turned out. Ortberg heads straight for the big game...primordial, oppressive, and funny." —Boris Kachka, New York Magazine