Darkest Desire: The Wolf's Own Tale

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9780880016261: Darkest Desire: The Wolf's Own Tale
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Wolf's life in the woods is good except for the uncontrollable urge to devour children that made him an outcast among his peers, until Wolf meets the Brothers Grimm and, after much deliberation, decides to accept their cure for his dark desires.

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Review:

In Darkest Desire Anthony Schmitz turns the Brothers Grimm on their heads, retelling "Little Red Riding Hood" from the wolf's perspective. Whatever charm the reader might reasonably expect from such a conceit, however, rapidly dissipates under the beast's graphic and unpleasantly sexual descriptions of child murder:

If I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of cloth shredding as I pulled with my teeth. I was mad with rage and joy for a moment, and then I was overwhelmed by guilt. Yes, yes, certainly he was a pathetic thing, so miserably, mistakenly confident. But he was as God had made him, and now he was torn asunder. I quickly lost my appetite. I left him almost whole, except for the upper ham. That I retched in the grass a few minutes later.
The wolf goes on to describe how, in the days following this first kill, he "relived those few minutes again and again," and one can't help but think of the Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world, slouching towards their next gruesome murder.

Schmitz does have a point he's trying to make about the individual's obligation to his own true nature, no matter how perverse, versus his duty to conform to social norms. In exploring this dichotomy, the author skewers psychotherapy--or at least the most opportunistic practitioners of it--and paints Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as the 19th-century equivalent of tabloid journalists, willing to go to any length to get their story, even if it means manufacturing it. All this might have worked had the wolf's proclivities been less revolting. Unfortunately, there's just no argument to be made in favor of baby-killing as a form of self-expression. Darkest Desire is well written but deeply unpleasant to read. --Alix Wilber

About the Author:

Anthony Schmitz is the author of "Lost Souls" and "Valentine's Cafe." He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he builds boats and helps organize an urban farm.

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