In the coming weeks, we will present many of the contributors to A Very Angry Baby discussing the pieces published in Acre’s anthology. Today, Josh Russell on “Apple Girl”:
Every night for several years I read to my daughter from the 200 stories collected in Italian Folktales Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino. Almost without fail, there would be a line or two that struck me, my kid, or both of us as interesting, or funny, or weird. After she was asleep, I’d mark those lines, and when I had time to write, I’d begin my own suburban folktale by “sampling” Calvino. What I wanted from each sample was a vivid idiosyncratic detail, just enough beats of rhythm to get things moving, an unexpected conjunction (“. . . an apple, but an apple redder and more beautiful than any you ever saw” (emphasis mine)). The practice pleased me: I was reimagining and recontextualizing folktales already altered by hundreds of years of telling and retelling, contextualizing and recontextualizing—including Calvino’s reshapings—and by translation from Italian to English. Form is how we make new the old story. “Apple Girl” opens with an unaltered line from Calvino’s tale of the same title, but the rest is mine. In his version, there is no HR, no royal adultery, no how-to books.