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Aesop Revisited [Book 1] (Ethan Russell Erway)

Sunday, 19. February 2012

Aesop Revisited [Book 1] is a short story collection by Ethan Russell Erway in which he retells the various classic fables by Aesop. (He also provides us with the original stories, for easy reference.)

Somehow I think that Erway and I, we have different interpretations of what a fable his. For him it is not so much a story with moral that is a metaphor for the beliefs or general consensus of what is right (at the time), but rather a possibility to tell jokes. Unfortunately, he tries a little too hard to be funny and to surprise us with his new takes and not hard enough to actually tell us something with his stories.

After the jump, more about each story seperately.

Foreword

Written by Aesop himself who is rather astonished by everything. Nice and quite funny (in a trying a bit hard way). I did especially like this moment:

I decided that this eee-book as he called it, would not only benefit by my comments, but that the caliber of the writer’s work actually demanded a few quick strokes from my pen. After some particularly rude comments and abrasive looks from Erway for writing on his beloved “con-tuter screen,” I told him exactly what he could do with his Macbook Pro.

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Wow, I did not know that a short story could be so bitter. It goes against taxes, working, not working, governmental aid, not getting governmental aid, … Basically, according to this story, life does nothing but screw you over. Which is quite a big departure from the original “hard work and sensible planning pay off.”

The Bald Man and the Fly

What the huh? It’s like Erway tried to invent his own joke. Then he noticed that it wasn’t quite working out, he figured he’d repair it by becoming more absurd. And throwing in other (old) jokes. And then becoming more absurd. In the end, he finishes with a note from Aesop:

Note from Aesop: If this ridiculous fable has a moral, I fail to see it. Apparently Wisdom has left the building (as if she were ever here).

I couldn’t agree more.

The Bear and the Two Travelers

I couldn’t help thinking that I had heard this joke/story before. Maybe I’m imagining things, but either way, it felt really old.

The Crow and the Pitcher

I loved that he turned the (water) pitcher into a (baseball) pitcher. But as the story progressed, he just really lost me. And really, I don’t expect everything in every story to point to a morale, but that is kind of the point of fables, no? Why is that so hard for Erway?

The Boy and the Nettles

Seriously? So, in this rendition, the boy dates a girl named Nettles and he’s the perfect gentleman, but the don’t hit it off and then they break up. Later he sees her dating a guy who is abusive and she completely loves him. And the moral of the story:

“Some women actually like men who treat them badly. If you had been as mean to her as that new boy she’s dating, she would probably have taken to you the same way.”
“But that’s crazy,” he said, not fully understanding why anyone would want to be mistreated.
“Yes it is, and it’s also a good lesson for you. Remember that crazy, unhappy people tend to poison  everyone around them. If you want to live a happy life, surround yourself with those who build you up, not break you down.”

Maybe it’s better that the stories usually don’t really have a moral. Because that is just a slap in the face for anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship.

The Fox and the Grapes

I’m no fan of reality shows (except The Voice because anything that puts Blake Shelton and Adam Levine in the same room is sacred) and the “sour grapes” phenomenon can be seen often in the participants, so this story should work perfectly for me. But there was just too little zing in this story.

[I have now officially abandoned my quest for a moral in these "fables."]

The Hunter and the Woodman

What is it with this author that he takes perfectly benign stories and suddenly people get knocked unconscious and tazered? That is probably the most astute commentary on modern life all these stories have made so far.

The Kid and the Wolf

Okay, this little moment just saved a lot:

“I may be a Goat, but I have the heart of a Wolf. I betcha I can take you down in a rap battle.”
“I listen to Jazz music you meal,” he [the wolf, ed.] retorted meanly.

Almost as good as Mod Wolves – Jazz Wolves. And the whole story was rather nice (if a little mean to Jazz and HipHop fans).

The Lion and the Mouse

Just when I thought that I might start to like the stories, along comes this misogynistic piece and destroys all hope. So women all are nagging creatures from hell who torture their husbands with ridiculous to do lists when they all just want a bit of peace and quiet? What the hell?

The Monkey and the Dolphin

This story just makes me go “A. Ha. Ha.” Weakly.

The Rose and the Amaranth

So, first we get this:

Note from Aesop: I thought a word of explanation might come in handy here. The word amaranth comes from the Greek word amarantos, meaning “unwithering”. The word was applied to the amaranth (cosmopolitan genus of herbs) because they did not soon fade, and so the plant has often symbolized immortality in literature.

Admittedly that just makes me roll my eyes at the wise-assing.

And then the whole thing turns out to be a Twilight spoof which is nice and all, but there are so many Twilight spoofs around (and it’s such an easy target) that I expect a little more. Though “drink[ing] the chlorophyll of other flowers to survive” did make me laugh.

The Frogs Asking for a King

It was fine, but not terribly insightful.

Then Erway added two more – original – fables.

The Rattlesnake and the Jackalope

Honestly, this story just leaves me baffled. The Rattlesnake changes everything about itself to become popular at the recommendation of the Jackalope, then becomes a laughingstock and the moral of the story is:

“Thanks for nothing,” he told Jackalope.
“Hey, don’t blame me you schizophrenic rat-eater. I’m not even a real animal.”

It’s a bit like a surrealist painting. A bad surrealist painting.

The Donkey and the Elephant

This story it not so much a fable as the political manifesto of the author. Which basically boils down to “everybody sucks but god loves us all anyway.”

Excuse me while I retch.

A Final Word from Aesop

In which Aesop insults the reader for having chosen and read the book. Why, thanks for that – exactly what was missing to complement this little collection.

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