Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer; Anchor Books ($14). Anyone familiar with the works of Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, A.S. Byatt and Fay Weldon is well aware that fairy tales inform their work. Each of these writers, along with two dozen more, write thoughtfully about their introduction to the world of once-upon-a-time. Atwood notes that the tales of the Brothers Grimm have survived because of their appeal to the inner life, "the stuff both of nightmare and magical thinking." Francine Prose dissects "Sleeping Beauty" with surprising results, while Deborah Eisenberg explores the complexities of "The Snow Queen." No surprise, Julia Alvarez writes, that she became a storyteller. She grew up with the tale-spinning Scheherazade: "Certainly she had more to say to me than Dick and Jane." And Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni recalls growing up in India, where her life "was surrounded by the basic elements of the fairy tale: beauty and a foolish heart, love and poverty and betrayal. Being a child, I liked that."
Mariah of the Spirits and Other Southern Ghost Stories by Sherry Austin (The Overmountain Press, $14.95). Whether it's a curio shop in New Orleans or a North Carolina beach in autumn, Austin is an expert at evoking a sense of place where the supernatural seems, well, natural. In "The Excursion," an elderly woman discharges herself from a Charleston hospital and walks out into a fog-bound world, where a shuttle bus takes her to the harbor for a ferry ride. But what is its destination? In "The Other Woman," an Atlanta woman feels shadowed by another presence and breaks a mirror. And in "Birds of Silent Flight," a nature preserve becomes home to the ghost of Miss Emmaline.
-- Knight Ridder Newspapers