Friday, August 01, 2008

The Whimsical And The Profound

Well, it's a new month, and I for one could not be happier. Two of my roommates have moved into my apartment, so the whole loneliness and boredom thing I've had going on has come to a close. It was a good period of relfection and I will make sure to make more "me time" in the coming year, but too much just wasn't working for me. I mean, can you believe I really made a list describing in detail what I would do with the rest of my life? See the post before this one. I sure can't believe it.

Since it's a new month, I've also updated my book and music lists so you can get more a glimpse of my eclectic tastes. I'll warn you that the Little Jackie song has some mild language, but surely nothing you've never heard before and I doubt it would even get censored in the radio edit (if a radio station around here would ever have the taste level to play Little Jackie, that is... if I hear this Jonas Brothers song played again I'm going to hurt someone).

My post tonight is more or less fluff. I have some deep stuff planned but I thought it would be fun to reveal a little more about my literary tastes. I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which was last month's Book of the Month on my blog. It was very good, and also very deep. I won't reveal the plot but it raised many questions, and it spoke straight to the heart of how we remember things, and how our memories influence our future relationships in particular. It was very nuanced, very precise, and very well-thought out by its author. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You'll notice that this month's two books seem much less profound. They are children's books. The first is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, a book I was forced to buy at metaphorical gunpoint by a friend of mine who is another future English teacher. It seems I offended her by not having read it before, but I'll admit I've always heard it was good and it looks like a fun read. The other is a little more "old school"... Rudyard Kipling's Kim. I found a lovely (and cheap) hardback edition among the musty piles of literature in a local used book store (one of my favorite places to be, by the way). It's a classic and considered Kipling's masterpiece, so I figured I'd give it a read.

A lot of adults seem to consider themselves "above" children's literature (unless it's Christian allegory... *cough* Narnia *cough*). I've always had a soft spot for it. For one, I consider myself a fantasy novelist, and children's literature usually goes hand-in-hand with whimsy. I know that if Hell decides to freeze over and my first novel, Whaler, gets published, it will most likely fit into the children's literature genre, and that's just fine with me. I'd be honored to join the ranks of Madeleine L'Engle, Lois Lowry, Avi, Lloyd Alexander, and the host of other novelists whose works make a more profound statement than anything the popular novelists (or the pretentious unpopular ones) could come up with.

That's the thing about children's literature. Sure, it's often simple. The books can be short, the dialogue less cumbersome and the words a little less challenging to one's vocabulary... but it's that simple format that, to me, allows those books freedom to get their point of view across clearly. Lois Lowry's The Giver was not a hard read, and you knew exactly what she was trying to say about the special and fragile nature of humanity when you read it, but that didn't take away from the fact that it packed a punch. It's a little known fact, but the whimsy and oddness of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz was actually a veiled political message about the United States at that time, and what critic hasn't found deeper psychological underpinnings to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland? Perhaps the profound is simply easier to see when placed next to the whimsical.

So basically that's what I'm getting at here. I love children's literature not because it's simple or easy to take in. Quite the contrary. The writers of that particular genre usually don't beat around the bush when it comes to making their point. To go a step further, I'd say the writers usually actually have a point that goes beyond being "different" and "edgy" and not using correct punctuation or grammar for no reason (Cormac McCarthy, I'm looking at you). They have something to say, and I don't think it's strange that when we think of classic literature, often we think of books that were originally intended for children or younger audiences. The themes last longer, and so the books do.

Well, now you've learned a bit more about my literary tastes. What are yours? I know I ranted here, but I don't really mind if you don't like children's literature that much. We all find meaning in different things, so what kind of genres do you usually go for? Hope everyone has a great day, and God bless.

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