Monday, November 21, 2005

Three Craziest Days

This short week is the most intense in the Magazine's annual schedule. Because of heavy holiday mailing, all of our deadlines for the January/February issue arrive about two weeks earlier than usual, while at the same time we are readying "Fanfare," our choices for the best books of the year. I hope to be able to have some news of that list for you before Thursday--right now we are still arguing over the last handful of titles.

But throughout this hectic time I've been listening to the audiobook of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, wanting to have read it before seeing the movie. What a story--and it is inadvertently reminding me of something that seems to too frequently go missing in children's books of the "worthy" kind. By these quotation marks I mean novels that announce that they are going for higher stakes than entertainment, that seek to shed light upon some overlooked social or historical injustice or other. Too often, these books forget to tell a story, opting instead for (sometimes quite vivid) portraiture or scene-painting, trusting that the rightness of the theme is enough to carry readers along. It isn't.

2 comments:

Chris Abouzeid said...

In regards to your comment about books that purport to go for "higher stakes"--I couldn't agree more. This is a problem with fiction in general, and especially adult "literary" fiction.

Whenever people ask why I read so many juvenile and young adult books, I tell them it's because I find far better stories in them. Authors of juvenile and young adult books know (or should know) that they cannot get away with the kind of artistic sleight-of-hand that is rampant in adult fiction. There must be a story. And when I find a juvenile or YA book that forgets this, that sinks into the same kind of portraiture and artistic self-indulgence I find in adult fiction, it's doubly disappointing.

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