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Transformations Paperback – Bargain Price, February 15, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, February 15, 2001
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Editorial Reviews


"A funny, mad, witty, frightening, charming, haunting book."

The New York Times

"These poem-stories are a strange retelling of seventeen Grimms fairy tales, including “Snow White,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Red Riding Hood.” Astonishingly, they are as wholly personal as Anne Sexton’s most intimate poems. “Her metaphoric strength has never been greater — really funny, among other things, a dark, dark laughter.” -- C. K. Williams

"A vivid, astonishing, blood-curdling book." -- Stanley Kunitz

"God love her." --Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

About the Author

Anne Sexton (1928-1974), the author of ten collections of poems, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1967.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061808343X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,387,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have Anne Sexton's complete works, and this book rises above the rest. The fairy tale framework compels more structure and discipline from a poet accustomed to rambling (but often brilliant) confessional observation. It is, in my estimation, her finest work.
Her take on "Snow White" refuses to establish heroines or villains. The girl is a lovely virgin, "cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper...lips like Vin du Rhone." The jealous queen, still beautiful at middle age but fearing that time isn't on her side and informed by her mirror she's no longer "the fairest of them all," tries to kill her. For this, she is punished by torture. The twist here is that Sexton makes it clear that some day the virgin girl will meet the queen's fate: "Meanwhile Snow White held court,/ rolling her china-blue eyes open and shut/ and sometimes referring to her mirror/ as women do."
The lesbian implications of "Rapunzel" are brought to the fore, and the transvestite deception of "Little Red Riding Hood" is remarked on. Sexton crashes the dreamy romance of Cinderella with the mundane reality of marriage. "Happily ever after" is contrasted with "diapers...arguing...getting a middle-aged spread." The Freudian power of mother is accented in the poet's take on "Hansel and Gretel"; Sexton brings out dark implications of child murder and pedophilia that the original tale merely glosses.
Twenty years before Robert Bly tackled the "Iron John" fairy tale, Sexton put her spin on it, stressing the main character's cannibalism and outcast status. She compares the hairy wild man to a string of deeply troubled characters from her imagination. It is here where her poetry reaches the peak of its intensity: "A lunatic wearing that strait jacket/ like a sleeveless sweater, singing to the wall like Muzak...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this remarkable collection of poems, Anne Sexton offers readers seventeen transformations of classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales. As she makes clear in the first poem "The Gold Key", Sexton assumes the persona of the storyteller for this collection, calling herself a "middle-aged witch" with "my face in a book and my mouth wide, ready to tell you a story or two." This device allows her to write about intensely personal topics, such as a sexually abusive father, through the detached voice of a storyteller. The use of fairy tales also provides Sexton with a shared cultural framework that enables her to communicate her own experiences and perspectives in a universal language that readers already understand intimately.

Fairytales have a power few of us realize. The stories shape many of our fantasies as children; they also condition us to accept traditional gender roles as we grow up. I believe that Anne Sexton understood their power and influence. She brilliantly tapped into that power and transformed the tales in a way that forces the reader to look at them with fresh eyes. Before launching into the tales themselves, Sexton set the themes of the stories in a modern or personal context. These connections, along with the interlacing of 20th century details (like soda pop and jockstraps) and her use of modern syntax in the fairy tales made their subversive commentary on the burdens and fears of women in a society shaped by male dominance startlingly clear.

In her transformed tales, Sexton examines the female archetypes they depict: the docile virgin, the wicked stepmother, the aging witch. She also sheds an illuminating, feminist light on the themes of female competition and the idea of happily ever after which pop up often in fairytales.
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Format: Paperback
In all my readings of fairy tale variations, this has to be one of the best. Anne Sexton takes a grim and twisted approach to the already grim and twisted versions of the Grimm Brothers.
Of course, these poems are simply an extension of Anne Sexton's already established confessional form, but poetry is, first and foremost, an expression of society. These poems fail to remain part of Sexton's inner turmoil. Rather, they mock society and the roles that women are traditionally placed within fairy tales. Anne Sexton, in an example here, uses anachronisms to reach her audience, making references to popular culture.
The Queen Cried two pails of sea water. She was as persistent as a Jehovah's Witness.
Anne Sexton, "Rumpelstiltskin"
Although Sexton's poems are not suitable for an audience of children, they do serve as interesting, even necessary reading, once a child has matured and read beyond the traditional fairy tales that are `suitable' for kids.
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To be a great poet, one must possess the soul of a poet as a prerequisite, and the honesty of a human being who is unafraid of revealing their soul to its essential bareness. Anne Sexton does that with natural and admirable ease.

Perhaps exactly because she possessed those necessary qualities, she was well aware that it takes more than just the beautiful aspects of life, to create poetry that touches forgotten strings in our hearts. Strings that each on their own may produce sounds we would rather close our ears to, but used in the inspired and ingenious way as she does, and as a compilation, sound off with a flare, expressing the opus of Anne's life and resonating within our own hearts and lives. Great poetry turns on "lights" in our minds and awakens dormant feelings in our hearts.

Anne artfully proves that the ugly and the frightful, the ridiculous and the humorous, and not just the beautiful, all find their perfect place in poetry. The creativity and wit of her poems, like facets of a gem, reflect life's elements of joy and anguish, and clearly demonstrate that soul's journey inevitably passes through the muck of life, yet, in the end, and deep in its core, it remains unchanged, in its purity and reflection of the Devine.
In two words:

Great poetry! Anne Sexton, you ARE loved!

Anna Leda
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