Sunday, October 02, 2005

I'm Back...and I'm Nagging Already

I just got back from vacation, and the very first thing I want to do is remind everyone that it's the first week of October. That means it's Buy a Friend a Book Week. I've already bought my friend a book, though I haven't given it to him yet. You still have a whole week to buy yours.

Heroic Boy Writer Wins Over Jaded Girl Reader

On the first day of vacation I finished reading Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson. Anderson wrote Feed, a rather sophisticated piece of YA sci-fi. Whales on Stilts is for younger readers.

Whales on Stilts uses an omniscient, third-person narrator who keeps speaking directly to the reader, commenting on what's going on. I hate that kind of thing. To me, it destroys the illusion that the book is a world that I'm observing or even absorbing. It's as if the author is always telling me that it's all fake. I really had to force myself to read the first quarter to a third of this book.

The main character has two adventurous friends who, it suddenly becomes clear, are takeoffs on Tom Swift and, maybe, Nancy Drew. In fact, it turns out that these two characters are actually characters in their own series of 1930's-type adventure stories. I thought it was too bad I didn't like the book any more than I did because that was really kind of clever. Then all kinds of 1930's-era things started happening in funny and oddball ways. And I thought how sad it was that I didn't like the book because there were so many clever and interesting things going on. For instance, the footnote, which I won't go into here. But it was terrific.

You've probably guessed by now that Anderson overcame what I would have thought were insurmountable odds and won me over with his clever and nostalgic parody of old-time kid adventure stories. My reservation now is that I wonder if the children the book was written for will get it. This may be a kids' book only adults can enjoy.

I bought a copy of Whales on Stiltsfor a college-aged relative who was a big fan of Feed. He's going to receive it for Buy a Friend a Book Week.

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