The world-famous Habershaw Traveling Sideshow Company makes its way to various small towns. No one really sees it coming but somehow the show makes its way to your hometown one evening in June. Having lost your job, you find the HELP WANTED sign to be both convenient and enticing. You already love oddities and sideshows, so becoming an assistant to the infamous Professor Harold J. Habershaw would be a dream come true. He's a rather eccentric gentleman, and it seems there's no reason for you to second-guess your decision. That is, until you discover his latest sideshow attraction appropriately called, "PROFESSOR HABERSHAW'S FAIRY TALES FOR GROWN-UPS."
Each tale has been carefully collected by Professor Habershaw himself for many years. Some stories are good while others would shock the most timid person.
Be warned, my friends. Anyone who enters this particular attraction never exits, and there's a reason. Professor Habershaw's always on the lookout for new muses for his ever-growing collection of bizarre fairy tales. And if you're not careful, you could become his next greatest story yet to be told.
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What is the purpose of fairy tales? Hope? Catharsis? Escape? Fairies are the in-charge of some of humankind’s most inherent dreams – the good kind that inevitably ends in happiness. Professor Habershaw is not that fairy. But his tale does achieve its purpose.
One often forgets that the only distinction between an imaginary fairy tale and a giddy children’s story – both ending in a happy-ever-after – is that the former makes us feel we deserved that end. It’s not all pink and bubbly but makes the characters fight and persist to achieve a bright future. Such an impression of justice is much more important than the degree to which the intended reward is received. That approach is also why such tales appeal more to teens or young adults. Unlike children, they prefer a balance between realism (a struggle-prone journey) and idealism (a perfect ending). Now if we were to target proper adults, the ideal (read: happy) outcome itself would no longer be a priority. What would matter more is the approach or the realistic journey itself. Welcome to Professor Habershaw’s fairy tales for adults.
The above is pretty much what you get in the book. Tales of good, bad and the complicated. The only agenda professor strictly adheres to is fairness, i.e. people in his stories get what they deserve. No sugar coating. But then how is this fairy tale different from an ordinary story? This is where Mr. J. E. Bolton comes into the fray. The author uses his writing style to refreshing effect to keep us in a symbolic mode. He starts by narrating things in 2nd person. Who’s behind it and why, we do not know. Once each character begins to recount his/her saga, we switch to a 1st person narrative. Such execution is highly risky but works wonders in keeping us in the thick of things. I must say it is mainly owing to the nature of the story itself – which sees a bit of unexplained supernatural occurrence which draws people to Professor’s secluded abode. As if the tone-play wasn’t enough, out come a series of poetries. Once again, what shouldn’t work in conventional storytelling works here. The lines are not cryptic and so, do not interfere with the tale as it unfolds.
Professor Habershaw’s fairy tales are worth a read for the unconventionalism involved. The lessons touched upon through each highlighted life only adds to the meaningfulness of it all. As the protagonist notes, in the end, that’s all we are: lessons to either be learned from or examples that should be followed – nothing more and nothing less. That is the singular objective of Mr. Bolton. And his writing style makes this engagement as propelling as its magic book that seems to suck everyone in. The author’s intention is to credit the lives we lead, in all its variance. He has used his peculiar approach primarily to involve us as characters in the tale. This is perhaps why he thank us all - for being his greatest muses.
Book Review by The Fly
Edited by Malay Upadhyay for the s's!
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