Lord of the Fries & Other Stories

by Tim Wynne-Jones,
ISBN: 0888992742

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Children`s Books
by Marnie Parsons

The title of Tim Wynne-Jones's book isn't simply a nod to its first story, nor to William Golding's dark novel about the lie of childhood innocence and the human capacity for brutality. It's a clue to the spirited dynamic of this fine and crisply-written volume which, with equal measure of wit and thoughtfulness, tells of young people finding their way in, and into, the world-and doing so, usually, in company with literature. Many wonderful texts form the fabric of this book, but they are folded into Wynne-Jones's own work with an intelligence and humour which make their subtlety more than just subtextual. Stories are part of the emotional, intellectual, and visceral complex within which we live, and those Wynne-Jones borrows from are no less deeply entwined with the lives of his stories. His characters confront the world's harshnesses and intricacies, the unlikely vulnerabilities of acquaintances and their own potential for dark emotions; they filter such confrontation with their own creativity through the patterns that stories offer us for interpreting ourselves and other stories. In so doing, Wynne-Jones's characters often discover the power of their own voices, learn to use them (and language) responsibly.

So we can read the title story against Golding, read all of the stories against Golding, if we keep a sense of proportion about such allusion. More immediately, we can read "Lord of the Fries" against "Rumpelstiltskin", since the title character playfully borrows that name. Yet the story isn't a re-writing of the Grimm classic, despite many intersections. Yes, there's a prince (Jack Prince, car dealer), and a miller's daughter (who works at the Dairy Queen and shares her name with Henry James's Daisy). There's even an angry little man who helps Daisy more than once. But to read the story only as literary re-positioning would be to neglect the depth of relationship between, and the integrity of, these independent stories. It would be to make Wynne-Jones's story what neither it nor life is-tidy and simple. "Rumpelstiltskin" gives tentative shape to a story that reaches in many directions, engaging such topics as individuality, privacy, and respect. Similarly, Treasure Island lends temporary shape to "The Bermuda Triangle"; Anne of Green Gables informs "The Anne Rehearsals" (Anne is the literary passion of the narrator, but also has a larger presence in the story); and the myth of Satan's fall animates "The Fallen Angel". Each literary precursor enriches the story it resonates with, and is itself enriched by association.

These relations between stories are never single; they are made even more multiple and diverse by additional resonances-some serious, others not. "The Bermuda Triangle" holds in delicate balance pirates and buried treasure as well as the inexplicable, heart-wrenching disappearance of a dearly loved father. "The Fallen Angel" adopts the Stanley Cup playoffs as an oblique holy war, almost as delightfully as Wayne Johnston's The Divine Ryans. The subtle puns, the elastic stretching of allusion and reference throughout broaden the volume's reach and deepen its sophistication. This rich, funny collection is beautifully crafted and intensely felt-a truly lovely book. 


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