Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rabble being roused

I walk on Sundays with a group of former ILL-ers. Usually at some point in the walk, Sarah and I trade notes on what we're reading. We're both big fans of the YA genre, and we keep each other up-to-date on what we should be reading. (Or what we've read, as Sarah described a book to me today, I asked her, "Have I read that one?") We had a guest walker today, who was around for this conversation and asked why it is we liked YA stuff so much. And we both took stabs at answering the question.

At home, getting caught up on my blog reading, I found a link to this post. I'm not familiar with this guy, so it could be that he's just generally cranky for the sake of stirring up interesting controversy. He makes the claim that adults who read kidlit should "grow up." And a number of good folks commented back to say, in various forms, "go jump in a lake." (Both his point and the comments are much more sophisticated, but I'm summing up.)

Two points I found particularly resonant, in an "I wish I'd said that!" way are
this from Rachel, whoever she might be:
I think children's literature is still invested in "meaning" in a way that it is no longer fashionable for contemporary adult literature to be. That's how I understand Philip Pullman's famous and much-maligned statement about there being some issues too big to deal with in adult books. I don't think that adult books are intrinsically unable to deal with the big issues, I just think that post-theory literary world finds such issues embarrassingly unsophisticated. I do not, and so I read fairy tales.

What a great quote from Phillip Pullman!

And this from Christina, another wise stranger:

I find myself annoyed with adult literature sometimes (or at least contemporary adult lit-- give me Jane Austen any day). It can be so self-important, so egocentric, and so pretentious in its superfluous description, its deep psyche-scouring penetration. It's irritating, to put it bluntly.

I don't find the same to be true of children's or YA books. Out of necessity towards the audience, there's no room for all of that artery-clogging junk. In a way, I think that leaves a much wider scope of interpretation, in addition to being quite refreshing.

I *just* read The Giver... anyone who thinks that THAT is a book for (just) kids needs to read it again.

In addition to her Jane Austen plug, she captures some of what I was trying to explain to our guest walker. I sometimes find that adult writers are too invested in showing off their vocabulary, or their, oh I don't know, depth or something. I finished a long book this week about wealthy intellectuals living in Manhattan scorning others for their lack of wittiness and poor fashion sense, while wrecking their relationships with each other in various fashions. It was 16 discs of audio book!! And, like Christina above, I followed that with Lois Lowry's 3 disc "The Messenger," and felt I learned a whole lot more about the world and good and evil and the nature of human beings from the kid lit thank you very much.

Anyway, if you want to get riled up, check out the aggravating post. Oh, and then you can enjoy this comic. Are you reading xkcd yet?

1 comment:

Jim Tschen Emmons said...

It's good to rouse rabble, so as the mom in "The Castle" would say, "Good on ya Dal!" Seriously, way to say what must be said--YA, and if I may say so EYA (even younger adult ;-) fiction, are often far more "meaty" than adult fiction. And we're not alone--my good friend Dennis reads little else these days!