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Shuji Terayama’s “When I Was a Wolf” is a collection of essays that reappraise Western fairy tales, fables and literature. Terayama draws on personal experience, other art forms and makes lateral connections in order to flip each tale and suggest to the reader that they’ve been missing the point all along.

There is a serious playfulness to the essays. For example, Terayama’s essay on “The Emperor’s New Clothes” suggests that the emperor in question was not the dumpy middle-aged man of countless depictions, but used his “beautiful physique” and fashion sense to make his subjects like him. His nakedness — clear to all — was the logical conclusion of his attempt “to evince a new aesthetic.” The villain of the story is the uncouth child who states the obvious as if it were a deep revelation.

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