The Fairy Tale Museum

By (author): Susannah M. Smith

“Everything is new. Everything is strange. Everything is possible.” – Yumi Sakugawa

The Fairy Tale Museum is an alchemical curiosity-cabinet-as-novel that showcases the original, spectacular, grotesque, endearing, and otherworldly. You’ll meet bird-headed lovers, a cyborg cyclops, a fortune teller, revolutionary ventriloquists’ dummies, a narcoleptic vampire, Eros and Thanatos, and a host of woodland creatures. A celebration of hybrids, creativity, and transformation, this book is a manifesto against putting ourselves into boxes that limit who we can be and what is possible.


Susannah M. Smith

Susannah M. Smith is the author of the novel How the Blessed Live (Coach House Books). Her short fiction, non-fiction, artwork, and poetry have appeared in various publications. She lives in Vancouver.


The Fairy Tale Museum has more in common with installation art than with any traditional literary genres… [this book is] an exercise in encouraging creativity.”Rain Taxi

The Fairy Tale Museum is a beautifully written book of short prose invites the reader to relax and explore the curated ‘collections’ of pieces. It is a book you can, like a museum, come back to again and again and discover something new each time.”Prairie Fire Review of Books

“I am easily enchanted by fiction that plays with form and subverts traditional storytelling. That’s why I loved The Fairy Tale Museum… Susannah M. Smith’s writing is poetic and hypnotic and this book was a lovely ode to imagination.”Augur

“A dream within a dream within a book. A wonderland-like journey through magic and imagination. I’m running out of ways to describe this book, in part because it defies description. If you like dark fairy tales, you’ll probably like this.”—McNally Robinson Staff Pick

“In The Fairy Tale Museum, Susannah M. Smith has crafted a world as seemingly scenic and romantic as a snow globe—except this world can break, it can draw blood, and it can transform. This is a beautiful book, its beauty only deepened by its bite.”—Derek McCormack

“In Susannah M. Smith’s fantastical, moody folkloric menagerie, you can wander slowly and savour, or leap randomly between surprising exhibits. Part Brothers Grimm and part Doktor Bey, part novel and part poem, The Fairy Tale Museum is a moving, exquisite sensory experience. This is an exciting book.”—Stuart Ross

– Reviewers


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Excerpts & Samples ×

Instructions for Collectors

First, a confession.

I sometimes stay in the museum after hours. Sometimes I sleep there. You would think a museum would be quiet at night, but no. The objects talk to me. I have secret nooks where I listen. They tell me their stories while I make notes, scribbling in the dim light. Recording as much as I can. After all, as a curator, it is my job to listen and make connections.

Towards dawn, I often sneak home for a quick shower and a bowl of oatmeal. When I arrive back at the museum, crisp and clean and inspired, no one is any the wiser. I lay open my notes on my desk and survey the night’s work. Few things are more pleasing than writing by hand in a notebook.

If I’ve learned one thing from the objects, it is this: the secret to life is loving what you do. Not in certain hours of certain days, but in every moment of every day. I have decided to love.

It was not always this way. Although I grew up in a family of collectors, there was a period of time when I stopped collecting. To be more accurate: I never stopped collecting completely, but I stopped believing in my collections. During that time, I felt adrift in the sea of the world, subject to random winds and tides and cut off from mystery and beauty, while happiness skirted my periphery. This continued for some time, until I finally realized that I had to take control of my own boat and come home to myself. So I chose a different course and resumed my observing, collecting, and documenting practice. I immediately regained a sense of purpose. Knowing what I now know, I will never lose my way in this manner again. You can’t abandon yourself and expect to like your life.

And so, a short set of instructions.

1. Never allow someone else’s no to annihilate your yes.

2. Always listen to and follow the thread of what attracts you, what ignites your curiosity. For example, the enchantment of drawers, the nesting of artifacts inside boxes, the joy of the secret wardrobe, the home inside the home inside the home—such delicious pleasures. Your yes is your guiding light.

3. Collect handmade images and objects. The value of the unique over the reproduction is inherent. Read Walter Benjamin—one of the great collectors—on this topic. The antique plate is always fully itself.

4. Your collection tells a story. In this collection, you can be anyone you want to be. You can create the story that matches who you are inside. You can change, you can transform, you can start again and again and again. This is the privilege of the collector.

5. Collecting equals learning. On many levels.

6. The object is a repository for magical thought. Objects contain stories. You have a relationship with the object. The object offers you its secrets. By association, you become magical. 

7. Be ready to let everything go. The collection is meant to be shared. It starts its life with you and then you hand it over to other minds, other imaginations. In this way, the object becomes expansive and takes on a life of its own, carrying your contribution with it. Evolution is effortless and effervescent and never-ending. Always the forward momentum.

Reader Reviews



208 Pages
8.0in * 5.0in * 0.5in


May 15, 2018



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