Fairy-tale endings and socialist politics… (a cross-post)

Some radical feminist called Sarah Irving has written the following

Despite the sudden descent of a lot of extremely Arctic air onto Edinburgh yesterday evening, it was very much worth venturing out for Sara Maitland‘s unofficial launch of her latest book, Gossip from the Forest, published by Granta. The book isn’t technically out yet, so getting to hear Maitland hold forth in her inimitable style and to lay hands on copies was a treat.
According to Maitland, the book in some measure celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first edition of the famous collection of fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. Lest that evoke images of tweeness and skipping elves, Maitland was keen to highlight the fact that the Brothers were proto-ethnographers and linguists whose first version of the tales had to be edited of sexual references once middle-class families started reading the stories to their children. In Maitland’s view the tales are “fundamentally about dispossessed poor people trying to get through a cold winter”, and in keeping with their popular origins they sanction lying, cheating and violence in the interests of the underclasses getting one over on the powerful. An intensely funny take on this came from Maitland’s own re-telling of the Grimm tale The Town Musicians of Bremen as an affectionate pastiche of socialist politics.
According to Maitland, her marvellous Book of Silence was an attempt to figure out how memoir and cultural/historical research might fit together, and Gossip from the Forest tries to go one further by adding fiction to the mix. Other interesting points she mentioned included the differences between Teutonic and Celtic fairytales, and the fact that biodiversity is greater in managed than in ‘pristine’ forests, which says interesting things about the way that both humans and landscapes can benefit from informed co-existence (something very difference from the exploitation which human ‘management’ often spills over into). For these, and many more reasons, I am very much looking forward to digging into this book.
Other upcoming treats from the Edinburgh Radical & Independent Bookfair include this evening’s appearance from Palestinian-Syrian-Glaswegian poet Iyad Hayatleh and his co-author Tessa Ransford, presenting their bilingual book of Arabic-English poetry, A Rug of a Thousand Colours.


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2 Responses to Fairy-tale endings and socialist politics… (a cross-post)

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: “and the fact that biodiversity is greater in managed than in ‘pristine’ forests, which says interesting things about the way that both humans and landscapes can benefit from informed co-existence (something very difference from the exploitation which human ‘management’ often spills over into)”

    The biodiversity increase often comes at the expense of species that are habitat specialists.
    In my experience of the propaganda use of the ‘managed forest greater biodiversity’ argument, it is mostly used as a pernicious defense against establishing parks or other reserves and to justify industrial logging. Some folks in your blog community I expect will be aware that this kind of use of the “greater biodiversity” argument.

    To read it anywhere triggers my anger about industry propaganda and my desire to flag it and some days, respond.

    caribou, Canada’s boreal/foothills types, Alberta backstory:


    This is an example of the impending extinction of a unique herd with 14000 year-old heritage for pulp/paper and of course, ‘greater biodiversity’ in managed forests. see research here:


    But the pulp for my newspaper I read today is from their home range. Like Chomsky says…we’re all compromised.

    But mostly rather than logging, it is oil and gas and now tarsands finishing the job on herds across Alberta’s boreal, beyond the foothills herds, but more and more wolves getting shot as a useless interim measure that will only prolong the inevitable, if we keep enlarging ‘managed forests’.



    This ‘managed forests and greater biodiversity’ argument has had extensive use here in my home province of Alberta, Canada, to justify massive expansion of wide-scale multi-national pulping of boreal forests since politicians invited the Japanese multi the late 1980’s.

    That increased biodiversity includes expanding the range of white-tailed deer beyond pre-industrial range… a generalist species, and the ongoing regional extinctions of specialized animals such as our boreal caribou.

    A corporate logging manager once told me (1990 ) with great passion and great sincerity how terribly mis-informed I and other environmentalists were, and how unfair our criticism was to him personally, because I didn’t realize how many white-tailed deer were now living around his mill. And how he and his logging were actually doing such a great thing by increasing biodiversity. And he did have a forestry degree. Surreal. He was a transplanted New Zealander where of course they have impressive populations of introduced deer and impressive extensive plantation ‘managed’ forests.

    This argument just got recent publicity in MSM here.

    Two years ago a member of legislature argued directly to me in our legislature’s lobby that parks are not healthy ecosystems because they are static and diverse. True to some extent for small parks where fire is suppressed. Not for the scale of protection we discussed.

    I was a part of this fight that is still being waged and being lost. Some of my friends have been able to continue the work. As I write this, I notice that my emotional regulation work is still a work-in-progress.

    And hey, there’s hundreds of thousands of caribou further north in Canada. so what’s a herd or 20 loss…

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    Missed the NOT above. Wrong meaning without it.

    ” that parks are not healthy ecosystems because they are static and NOT diverse.”

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