Nasty, brutal and timeless

Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm

There's no doubt about Philip Pullman's ability to write a compelling tale—the His Dark Materials trilogy is proof enough. In Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (Viking Adult, $27.95), he takes old stories as gathered by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century and retells them in a way that makes them even more gripping for the modern reader. What Pullman has done here is on par with Anne Sexton's poems based on fairy tales, collected in 1971's Transformations. He doesn't shy away from the violence at the heart of these tales and the dark worldview. It's that worldview, in fact, that is the most timeless thing of all, since we've retained the nasty and brutal bits as our culture has evolved.