The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster

From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from her beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and her best-selling debut Texts from Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a p...

Details The Merry Spinster

TitleThe Merry Spinster
Release DateMar 13th, 2018
PublisherHolt Paperbacks/Henry Holt and Company
GenreShort Stories, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Fairy Tales, Retellings

Reviews The Merry Spinster

  • Emily May
    There are two really great stories here, a couple of okay ones, many pages of beautiful/whimsical/amusing writing, several interesting ideas, and a whole lot of codswallop. Let's call it a 2.5.As with many other short story collections, like Machado's Her Body and Other Parties, The Merry Spinster is a mixed bag. With this one, though, I'm leaning more towards declaring it a negative reading experience. There were just too many nonsensical things...
  • Melki
    "Had my own brothers lived," the king said, "they should certainly have tried to harm our own children and stifle our peace." His own brothers, however, had not lived. It was an important task of kingship, determining when brothers and sons were no longer necessary.I was really looking forward to this collection of fairy tale retellings, but it proved to be a something of a let down. Ortberg's versions are somber and bleak, but really no darker t...
  • Tori (InToriLex)
    Find this and other Reviews at In Tori LexActual Rating 2.5You should be a fan of the Grimm' Fairy Tales, in order to appreciate these short stories. I am really familiar with Disney's feel good fairy tales but didn't feel familiar enough with the source material to appreciate the adaptions. These horrific short stories pay homage to their original sources while adding elements of horror and surprise. The characters don't behave according to esta...
  • Jaksen
    I read the first few, skimmed the rest. I don't get any of it. Seems written by a writer who luxuriates in her own overblown cleverness.I don't mean to be unnecessarily cruel in my review, and the writing itself is superb. That is, how one word meets the next; how metaphors fly out like gnats, biting and surprising you; how carefully each story is composed; and even, how repetition of phrases create a sort of innate rhythm to each tale. Yep, this...
  • Oriana
    Oh Mallory, oh Daniel Mallory, oh my goodness gracious how I adore you. This book tho... I don't know. It is incredibly well done, but that is not at all the same as saying I enjoyed it. Each tale starts out familiar, like a song you love redone in a minor key — the mermaid who trades her voice for legs, the king who banishes his sons, the put-upon stepsister who goes to live with a beast-creature — but quickly they twist and wrench. Each unf...
  • ❀⊱Rory⊰❀
    4 Stars! Review to follow.
  • ak
    Received an ARC for free blah blah whatever disclosure.These stories are weird and queer and horrifying and are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but if you like Mallory’s writing especially her “children’s stories made horrifying” you won’t be disappointed. Also The Rabbit is going to haunt me forever.
  • Charlie Anders
    I blurbed this book, so just to add to what I already said ---- this is really something special, even after the other fairytale retellings I've read lately. I wasn't really prepared for quite how creepy and intense, and endleslsy inventive, this book is. Unsettling and powerful, and it'll totally make you look at the stories that formed us in a whole new way.
  • Tiffany Huffman (perfictionist_tiff)
    Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts From Jane Eyre, has created another wonderfully unique book. This compilation of short stories retelling a variety of everyone's most beloved fairy and folk tales is not one the reader will soon forget. The main reason I would love a hard copy of this book and perceive it as a valuable read is I like that this book changes my perspective on classic stories. I will never think of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the ...
  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    Netgalley #56Many thanks go to Mallory Ortberg, Holt Paperback, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I admit it. I have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings. Ortberg was definitely original here. She melded two or more tales, nursery rhymes, prayers, and ballads to create one-of-a-kind stories with a cynical twist. If anyone has difficulty identifying what's being used, there is a table at the end. I t...
  • Sara Saif
    I'm officially tired of reading retelling anthologies. They get odder and weirder and more befuddling with each story and by the time I'm done I feel like banging my head against a wall.I understand that part of it has to do with the fact that I have no ducking clue about the original stories themselves, most of the stories the writers pick to retell are not the usual disney ones. But then, how the heck am I supposed to get what part was retold a...
  • Terry
    With sorrowful honesty, closer to 2.5 stars. I adore Ortberg, and as a mournful fan of the late, great The Toast, there was a special feverish rush holding Ortberg's book in my hands--it's like a part of The Toast became sentient and came over to my house for tea/drinks. It was thrilling and a tiny bit sad.That being said... auuugh. I love Ortberg turning fairy tales on their heads. I love the playing with gender and history and narrative and...e...
  • Trin
    I'm sad to say I was very disappointed by this. Fairytale retellings are difficult, because they've just been done so many times before (Atwood, Carter, Donoghue, Gaiman...); still, I sort of hoped that if anyone could pull them off, it would be Ortberg, whose humorous writings and sharp takes on literature have always amused me a great deal. He does get in some very funny lines here and there in this collection, but overall, the ideas just didn'...
  • Sarah Marie
    The Merry Spinster: Tales for Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg3.75 starsMallory Ortberg’s short story collection focuses on the fairy tales of the past or beloved children stories and twists them into horrifying and shocking heights. I will admit not all the stories in this collection are perfect, but I can’t remember the last time I read so many 5-star short stories in a collection. Ortberg is skilled at telling the story in a way familiar...
  • thefourthvine
    I am definitely not the right audience for this book. I read this on easy mode, skipping two stories that were mostly about animals (and I should have skipped the third, but I didn’t realize in time), and the book still left me feeling slimed and poked in bruised places. It’s just grim, unrelentingly grim, unrelentingly saying, “Hey, did you know there are awful things in the world? There are! And they are so very, very awful.” Many of th...
  • Conor
    I love Mallory Ortberg. I even love apples, but his "Apples Are Bullshit" article from The Toast is one of my favorite articles of all time. It's just so well written. Mmmm.This is also well written. But I didn't really get this book. I guess it's a take on some fairytales. I must not know them as well as I think I do; or maybe I do, and just didn't find these to be very interesting or clever takes on said fairytales.Either way, I bet DMO is one ...
  • Becca
    I am an unapologetic (Daniel*) Mallory Ortberg fangirl. I've followed his work since the Toast, was overcome with glee when he took over Dear Prudence and basically think he can do no wrong. I also love faerie tales and hate short stories, so that's pretty much the context for where I'm coming from.Ortberg is a master of language and it shines here. His wit is subtle, but biting, and each story quickly comes into focus with a clear tone and setti...
  • Cristina
    Thanks to Disney's whimsical remakes of capital "R" Romantic folklore, my only childhood exposure to fairytales was cheerful princesses singing their way to happy endings surrounded by industrious animal friends. But we're all adults here. I think by now, we all know these are just sugar-coated versions of some pretty gnarly source material.The Merry Spinster meets us somewhere in the middle with 11 twisted versions of well known fables and fairy...
  • Jessica Woodbury
    If you already know Ortberg, you know what you're getting into with this collection and it will be even more delightful than you expect.If you don't already know Ortberg, well, this is a book that's going to defy your expectations at every turn. It tweaks tropes and genders and just about everything else over and over again, slowly lulling you into a glorious openness.
    This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge. I am a huge fan of a retelling. So, seeing this collection of retellings of fairy tales, folk tales and other well-known/traditional stories available for request on NetGalley had me super interested. Needless to say, I was psyched when I got chosen and sent the ARC. I was a little nervous starting to read, because “everyday horror” could mean a lot of things (I t...
  • Devann
    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalleyThis was a really great book of fairytale retellings. I like how she often took inspiration from more than one story at a time [all the source stories are listed at the end of the book] instead of just doing a straight retelling but with dark elements added. It definitely helped keep my interest because I didn't always know where the story was going, which I find is the problem with a lot of fairy...
  • Brook
    “Daughters are as good a thing as any…” begins The Merry Spinster by Danny Ortberg’s wild reimagining of the Little Mermaid that ends in such grim fashion as to make the reader nod solemnly and intone, “truly, these are the end of times.” And yet, what a romp of a dark timeline. (visit for the rest)
  • Audacia Ray
    Wow, this book was evilly delightful. Fairytales are meant to be dark and the twists in these stories made me gleeful with with their darkness. Vengeance, gaslighting, plenty of death, characters getting what they deserve, with some interesting gender stuff in play. So great.
  • Rebecca
    Enjoyed this a lot more than I anticipated, these are fairy tale re-tellings, but slightly dark and twisted. I don't think any really pushed through to full on horror, which was fine by me, I liked the creepy level. There is also an interesting element in several of the stories, where gender versus social role is upturned a bit. This is never really explained, but it's made somewhat clear in the first to use this, a Cinderella based story, when t...
  • Lauren James
    Just as weird and odd and delicious as you'd hope for, from the creator of The Toast. My favourite was the serial killer Velveteen Rabbit.
  • Vivek Tejuja
    Fairy Tales were never meant for children, I suppose. Over the years, and along the way, they became for children. No wonder there are so many retellings and translations of the true fairy tales from different regions of the world, in order to maintain them for what they were: sinister. “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” by Mallory Ortberg is one such book of dark and playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales, each one...
  • Bunny 36 books in 31 days is not a bad idea shut up
    Can you take the Real out of a boy, then? Can you take his heart into your own self and leave him stuffed with sawdust on the nursery floor in your place?The Velveteen Rabbit story is the golden star of this book. Good god. I have a certain affection for fairy tales. I love them all, from the dark original versions to the colorful and happy Disney films all the way to the retellings, like The Lunar Chronicles. The stories are so familiar, but eac...
  • Annie
    I can’t even. I have no coherent things to say because I am too busy gushing. But seriously, guys: READ THIS. It takes a whole bunch of stories that we all know well and makes them dark(er) and (more) strange. Also queer. It is brilliant. And while I’m saying bossy things, go visit the way back machine and find yourself and maybe start with the two monks invent art history. If you are not already familiar with this, you can than...
  • Leah
    The Daughter Cells - 3/5 - I wish it was longer and filled with more gore and horror. I'd love to see this story explored as a full-length novel.The Thankless Child - 2/5 - I may not have the necessary smarts to really get this story, but I found it boring and not all that horrific. There are elements of it, but this definitely needed to be a couple more pages to really flesh it out fully.Fear Not: An Incident Log - 1/5 - Religious retellings are...
  • Emily
    There were three and a half good stories out of the eleven in this book. I loathed the rest, which were unrelentingly and uncleverly dark and creepy. Fairy tales lose their power when they commit the sin of being wholly hopeless, or when a collection piles unhappy ending on top of unhappy ending to the extent the morals are lost. Telling readers to “imagine childhood faves - but EXPLICITLY AND GRAPHICALLY EVIL!” is not actually a nuanced prem...