Alberto Manguel’s book Fabulous Monsters details those fictional characters that he seems to feel the most for. At times it is a stranger list. There is Phoebe Caulfield for one. But it is an international list and that in of itself is a pleasure. Each character gets his/her own essay. The book, like most of Manguel’s work when he writes about reading is engrossing and great fun.
At times, though, it is very strange and, dare I say, very male.
Manguel’s reading of Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty are bit disturbing, off putting. They are not necessarily wrong. But strange. He takes about the seductive power about Red Riding Hood, and while he is not wrong when he calls her both the seduced and seducer, there is something weird about that expression considering that the version Manguel mostly deals with is the Perrault version, which is really about women and sex. He also does not mention the coda in the Grimm version (I can see Angela Carter rapping his knuckles about that), and so there is a disjointed feeling.
The same is true about his reading of Sleeping Beauty where the rape versions are not mentioned, which is strange because there is a French version. It makes for slightly strange reading.
But his essays about Alice and Gertrude in particular are absolutely wonderful. His take on Alice is great and his opinion of Gertrude is quite amusing. He also gets you to look at Catcher int eh Rye in different way (besides Holden as an ass). He is one of those people who does feel something for Gertrude.