- At Slate, Stephen Metcalf provides an interesting meditation on John Knowles' A Separate Peace, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The piece is well worth reading, though unfortunately devolves into a sadly misinformed commentary based on a narrow and thus suspect idea of what YA was rather than what it actually is. He also seems to think that modern YA lacks voice–WOW. So perhaps best to skip the section after the jump. That said, here's a nice little tidbit: "To posterity it offers up a minor curiosity: its portrait of Brinker Hadley, a cunning verbal torturer based on Knowles' Exeter schoolmate Gore Vidal. (Vidal has publicly admired the novel.) Hadley is a campus cynic-dandy of a style Exeter specializes in developing. Taking the type broadly, James Agee, Dwight MacDonald, Gore Vidal, and George Trow all attended Exeter, all experienced the splendor of its reproving coldness, and each, in a way, spent a lifetime writing his way out from under it."
- Nicola Griffith waxes thoughtful on the topic of blockbusters, a topic I've been thinking about too lately, given Avatar and all the commentary about its predictable storyline. Complexity and mass accessibility may not be natural enemies, but they do seem to come into frequent combat.
- I can't wait to nab a copy of the current Believer issue, which contains Sarah Weinman's two-and-a-half-years-in-the-making essay about Don Carpenter.
- Erin recommends some of her favorite stories published in online mags this year. Good stuff (check out the Moorer story!).
- Carolyn Kellogg reviews Alan DeNiro's Total Oblivion, More or Less for the LA Times.
- Jed Berry on the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (and showing off the new cover the paperback edition of The Manual of Detection will sport. One of my favorite reads of last year, by FAR. Pick it up.)
- The New York Times profiles the new ambassador of young people's literature, the one and only Katherine Paterson: "She has never considered writing for adults. "When people say, 'Don't you want to write for adults?' I think, why would I want to write a book that would be remaindered in six weeks?" Ms. Paterson said. "My books have gone on and on, and my readers, if they love the book, they will read it and reread it. I have the best readers in the world."
- My favorite maven Lauren Cerand on the Alias Man Ray show currently on at the Jewish Museum.
- The Watcher's winter TV round-up. Nothing like below freezing temps to make you pick up some new shows.
4 thoughts on “Tuesday Hangovers”
That Metcalf essay is right on the money about so many things. The problem with his ideas about YA has to do with what I think a lot of confusion over YA books may be. I think the kind of book that Metcalf is actually talking about (and confusing with YA fiction) is the coming of age novel. I really do think that a YA novel and a Coming of Age novel are two different (though related) birds. The difference, I think (and perhaps the only difference, but one that opens up a lot of changes on other levels) is the perspective. Notice that all of the books he lists in A Separate Peace’s category of book are recounted by narrators many years after the events that take place around their teenage self. I think that the typical YA novel’s events take place without that distance of years between the narrator and the teenager they were. This might seem like a slight thing, but I think its effects are felt throughout a text in way that is enough to make a YA novel versus a Coming of Age novel feel different from one another.
Of course teenagers and adults alike read both, and enjoy both, but I think that adult perspective on one’s childhood or adolescence is a key difference. At least for me. And so when I read his comparison of this novel (and the others in that list) to the YA novel, I don’t see a devolution, as he does, because I feel they are parallel tracks, but there is a dividing line between them.
Thanks for the link. I haven’t read anything about A Separate Peace in so long, and it’s nice to see someone finally talking about the class and sexuality issues in it (even if its author might not have noticed them himself). 🙂
Hey, thanks for the shout out. The whole notion of belonging as it relates to blockbusterdom merits more thought, IMO. My post is just some preliminary messing about. I’ll figure it out eventually.
I think you’re right on the money–and it is a really fascinating essay, despite that little weirdness. I wonder how many kids are still reading that book.
Everything worth thinking about merits more thought.
I’d love to hear anything else you mull on the topic.
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