Tim Manley’s Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation tells the stories of fairy tale princesses and heroes, as twenty-somethings navigating relationships, friends, sex, careers and social media.
The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook-stalk each other down opposite career paths. Robin Hood worries if his killer social media campaign is fighting hunger or just slacktivism. Beauty’s new boyfriend plays videogames in his underpants. Ariel just doesn’t get pop culture, besides the episode of Hoarders with all the forks. Rapunzel posts a selfie with her short new do, and wonders, did everyone hate my old look without telling me? Ping’s father still calls him “Mulan” sometimes, but he calls the internet “AOL”, so Ping tries not to hold it against him.
Each story is told in a short blurb — a bit longer that a tweet, shorter than my blog posts — and then on to the next story, with the major narratives picked up again. The result is a magical Tumblr feed of fairy-tale characters living out their twenty-something adventures.
The Oatmeal’s guide for online virality includes a healthy dose of nostalgia, and the blend of Disney memories is particularly clear in the almost-woodcut illustrations. (What? You didn’t know almost-woodcut was an art term? Totally is, and that word’s worth a thousand pictures.) Slightly twisted version of childhood cartoon favorites and John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice, are shown as Brooklyn hipsters. The result is charming, perfect for every fairy-tale-reading twentysomething to reblog. I read the book on my iPad and had to stop myself from screenshotting every single page.
The narrative lovingly snarks at Brooklyn on several occasions, asking –as every Brooklyn-based writer has asked ourselves at least once — if moving to Brooklyn to write is just an expensive cliche, and if living would be more authentic elsewhere; and musing on the tragic undateability of people from LA. (Just kidding, handsome Los Angeles director I dated when I lived in Brooklyn!) Alice In Tumblr-Land hints at Brooklyn in other ways, although princesses agree to meet their ex-boyfriends for coffee, the Ugly Duckling might ostentatiously like music no one else has heard of, and Peter Pan might take an unpaid internship in any other city.
Even through the conceit of Disney characters going on bad dates and posting on Facebook about quarterlife crises, the overall narrative is quite sympathetic. Well, not to the wolves Red encounters on OKCupid, of course, but sympathetic to the characters struggling with post-college worries. Post-college problems are easy to trivialize as frivolous millennial whining, but Alice In Tumblr-Land still manages to mock characters with compassion. Even with a certain amount of navel-gazing and requisite bad decisions, they’re just young people struggling towards a happily-ever-after life.