Monday, September 29, 2003

Professional Reading

As part of my general self-improvement plan, I've been a little more conscientious about keeping up with my professional reading. Thus, I have finished the July/August issue of The Horn Book. It included a very interesting article by Patty Campbell on the Printz Award. The Printz Award is given for excellence in YA fiction. Campbell's article discussed the question of quality vs. popularity--awards being given for good quality writing that no one reads.

Which is not what I'm going to discuss today. I just wanted to let you know where I got the following quote. Campbell says:

It seems to me that for a book to be considered YA, the protagonist must be a teenager; there must be no extended introspective passages from an adult or child point of view; the book must be plot-driven with a minimum of description; it must give priority to immediacy and brevity; and the point of view must have the limitations of an adolescent perspective.....If a book violates even one of these rules, it is outside the parameters of the genre.

I found this very interesting since I think there is a lot of confusion about what YA is. I did find the business about the books being plot-driven instead of character driven a little disturbing, though, because I was under the impression that in adult literature plot-driven books are usually considered of a little lesser quality. Thus, if YA books must be plot-driven rather than character-driven, aren't they, by definition, of lesser quality? Aren't they forced to be of lesser quality in order to be considered YA?

Which seems self-defeating.

Friday, September 26, 2003

More on Harry Bloom

Harold Bloom has also written--or probably edited or arranged is a better term for it--a book for children called Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. The book is a collection of stories and poems Bloom thinks children should be reading.

Now, it's very noble that a guy of Bloom's stature and ivy towerishness should take the time to do a children's book. But it's hard for me to feel warmly toward him since, when the book came out, he was doing interviews in which he bashed contemporary kidlit. I have trouble seeing why it is necessary to tear down others in order to promote yourself.

I haven't read his book, (though I would like to at least dip into it some day assuming I'm extremely intelligent enough), but I've heard that there's little in it that was written after WWI. And since I have a thing for readers being able to see themselves in literature and literature being honest enough to reflect the culture that produces it...Well, I think you see where I'm going with this.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

And None of You Readers Know Anything, Either!

Lots of talk at Readerville (and other litty sites, I'm sure) about Harold Bloom dumping on Stephen King. Since Stephen King is popular with YA readers--and since Bloom took this opportunity to moan and groan about J. K Rowling, as well--I think it's appropriate for me to talk about it, too.

First, who is Harold Bloom? The short answer is, an old guy who doesn't like anything and enjoys saying so. The long answer is he's a highly educated academic and literary critic who is well regarded by some. I wouldn't know about that, not having read anything he's written. He's well-known for promoting something called "The Western Canon," the western canon being literary works believed to have value. Most of them just happen to have been written by white, European males. Dead ones, often, too.

So he hates J.K. Rowling, saying she is a terrible writer whose readers will go on to read other terrible writers, such as Stephen King. Whom Bloom hates even more then he does our Jo.

Now, I don't necessarily think Rowling is the greatest author who has ever walked our globe, either. And I've never read anything by King, so I can't comment one way or the other. However, Bloom's "commentary" becomes nasty and personal in the article that is making noise right now. He moves away from critiquing the work to attacking the person.

In addition, the tone of the article in question suggests (at least to me) that most of the readers in the world are not educated enough to make decisions about literature, to understand and recognize quality writing. The elitist attitude is both offensive and scarey.

Notice that in he above paragraph I was writing about the tone of the article? I didn't attack Bloom, himself? That is how this lowly reader with only a mere college education believes criticism should be written.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A Very Special Blog

Blogs can be divided into a number of categories. No, I do not mean just good and bad. Some are political. Some are opportunities to rant. Some are professional. Some are personal. (As in a blog about a couple getting ready for their wedding or someone living in a foreign country for a year. Friends and relatives can keep up with what's going on in the bloggers' lives.) Original Content is either a rant or a professional blog, depending on the point of view of the reader.

However, there is another variation, a variation that is more about form then content. I am talking, of course, of live journals.

Live journals are, I guess, always personal and use a variation on blogger software so that the journalist can work in more personal information in a formated sort of way. As in "My Current Mood" with an adjective and emoticon to describe said current mood. It also appears that people can post messages in response to journal entries, though I'm not a hundred percent clear on how that works or if there is some kind of netiquette involved.

I'm not sure I understand the purpose of live journals since they do seem to involve posting personal info for your friends and strangers to see. And sometimes they are rather mundane. "I did this, then I did this, then I did this." But I suppose they help people with a need to express themselves and communicate. In days of old, all journals did was meet the first need. In the 21st Century we multi-task and live journals are a twofer.

I was ego-surfing last week and stumbled upon a reference to Saving the Planet and Stuff in someone's live journal. "Reading Saving the Planet. Fair."

Maybe she was talking about another book.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

How Weird is This?

While doing a little ego-surfing I found Saving the Planet and Stuff at, which describes itself as a "Home Page for the World's Business Leaders."

Does this make me some kind of crossover writer?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Something I Found on my Desk

I'm into the 3rd or 4th week of cleaning my desk. I found a slip of paper with the words postmodernism and metafiction. My plan in making those notes--I think--was to look up those words' definitions, learn all about them, and become some kind of brainiac.

Unfortunately, all the sites for both terms are mindnumbingly boring so I still don't know what they mean.

However, I had set a goal for myself of writing 2 or 3 weblog entries this week, and now I've met it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Picture This

Quite some time ago I mentioned that I was trying to read more picturebooks because I was going to make an attempt at writing one. Well, the writing one part hasn't moved along much yet. However, I read a real charmer of a picturebook entitled My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh.

I was expecting something sappy, but it was clever, charming, witty...isn't that enough? This book will be loved by kids who have hippie grandmothers and kids who have traditional ones who find hippie grannies funny. Adult women who don't look forward to becoming traditional grams will appreciate it, too.

Oddly enough, this book is offered on-line at a lot of hippie sites . I say oddly because I wasn't aware that there were sites where you could buy hippie supplies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

An Avi Sighting

On Saturday I arrived at the Boats, Books, and Brushes with Taste festival just in time to catch Avi's question and answer period after his presentation. I particularly liked the fact that he cruises the remainder and sale tables in bookstores because he doesn't like to pay a lot for books. I know authors shouldn't feel that way, but some of us do.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

How Did This Happen?

Last week I saw Little Women--the good one with Winona Ryder, not the awful one with Katherine Hepburn. (She made our Jo look like a pencil-necked geek.) I recalled how I once read that all girls want to be Jo in Little Women. I never did. I wanted to be Jo in Little Men--the book, not the awful movie with Muriel (Mariel?) Hemingway. I wanted to write and have sons and a husband and raise boys. And I've always felt that to a great extent I got what I wanted.

Until, that is, I saw that movie last week. When I realized I'm not Jo at all. I'm Marmee! Oh, my gosh! When did this happen? There she was, giving little lectures about the status of women, encouraging her kids to do good, combating the forces of materialism and worldliness, and bringing in firewood. I sat there with my mouth open and thought, "That's me!"

What a bummer.