The Unswung Bat

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Some children's books clear up the misconception that "children's literature" is written exclusively for kids. Anyone over the age of 12 who can read Love You Forever or The Giving Tree without getting choked up is blocking something out.

On the plus side, being called "children's" protects them somewhat from horrible middle-school English class discussions, and things like that. The books go in the same places as stuffed animals, old games, and, until recently, comic books: if you're not using them for your enjoyment, you just don't take them out to examine for any other reason. So they stay safe in the toybox 'til someone feels like reading one. Which is good, because it lets the reader be surprised how much the stories speak to people who aren't kids.

So it's a travesty that The Sixth Borough exists only within the (magnificent but decidedly adult-oriented) novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Children should read it. It should not be talked about at Reading Time or in English class but should be available there, referred to in oblique terms without discussing what it's "about," so that people'll read it if they feel like it.

On a frozen shelf, in a closet frozen shut, is a can with a voice in it. What good is it doing there? What good is the story doing in the middle of a 300+ page novel? Sure, it does the novel well, the two stories become each other -- a dad tells the story to his son near the beginning of the novel, but you don't actually hear it until 200 pages later, because by then you know why it fits in the novel. You can see the novel in it. But a good story does fits external events to itself, largely regardless of where it is. I do believe that was even part of the point.

Thanks for the book, Hugh, been reading real slow so I'm only about 2/3 through.

Oh, and another thing. The "Emergency Disaster Gästbuch" link just above the Armadillo of Shame leads to a newly established refugee guestbook, while my main book is undergoing some form of civil unrest. It's brought to you by Ze Germans. Help me make it a sprawling, perturbed mess of a guestbook like you do so well.

original site + text contents ©2004 twenty oh four by me called it

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