Today’s guest is poet, storyteller, and now essayist Sabrina Orah Mark. Her latest book, Happily: A Personal History—with Fairy Tales, is an intriguing blend of two radically different forms, memoir and fairy tale. Much as fairy tales are feral, forever escaping a simple, reductive meaning, forever changing shape and being retold, forever out of fashion and always enduring, ancient and contemporary at the same time, Sabrina’s essays refuse to be only essays, somehow becoming fairy tales themselves. Our conversation about this essay collection is about fiction, fantasy, memoir, and poetry, about childhood, motherhood, and step-motherhood, and how they all magically coexist in the alchemy of Sabrina’s prose. Ultimately these tales, these surreal dreams, are not ways to look away from the world, but ways to be in it, to cope, confront, and engage with the unimaginably difficult, whether the raising of two Black Jewish boys in the United States today, unspeakable ancestral rupture, a global pandemic and climate apocalypse, or the anxieties and uncertainties of the everyday. Happily takes our hands to walk into the forest together.
For the bonus audio archive Sabrina contributes a reading of the Bruno Schulz story “Birds.” This joins a vast archive of material from Jai Chakrabarti reading poems by Bruno Schulz’s biographer, the Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski, to Jen Bervin reading the letters of Paul Celan, to Rosmarie Waldrop reading Edmond Jabès or Alice Oswald reading from the Book of Job. This is one of many possible benefits to joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter. You can find out about them all at the show’s Patreon page.
Finally here is the Bookshop corresponding to today’s conversation.