Slate calls Louis Sachar a Hot novelist of the sandbox set. The article has plenty of good things to say about Sachar's last book Holes, but isn't as positive about his new one, Small Steps.
The author of the article, Bryan Curtis, says Holes has "touches of magical realism," which I found interesting because I've never been clear on what magical realism is. He also says that "Children's novels often depend in some part on the confinement of their protagonists—whether in algebra class or a dusty old country house..." I found that interesting, too. I'd never heard that before or made the connection, myself, but, yeah, I guess I'd go along with that.
I'd Go Along With This, Too
The Guardian has a wonderful article called Cultureshock in which a children's author named Francesca Simon (I'm not sure if I've heard of her books) makes a deal with her son. She'll read a fantasy novel if he'll read one by Anthony Trollope.
Mom says: "All right, I admit it, I'm biased. I hate fantasy. All those adjectives and elves and weird names. The moment someone says fantasy, I know I'm in for "The three blood-red moons rose over the dusty sand plains of Ut-Tajik as the bald jackal priest of Sidt placed the sacred silver urn of Caldon on the broken altar of the blind god Fifff.""
That is exactly...exactly...what I think of when I think of fantasy.
Sixteen-year-old son says of Barchester Towers (which I believe I read when I was a teenager): "...all characters are introduced by means of lengthy and irrelevant description. The basic doctrine of "show, don't tell" was obviously not around in the 19th century, nor the notion that character and plot work best in tandem, rather than in isolation."
Now, I don't remember much about the book so I have no idea whether or not the kid's argument is accurate. But he states it so clearly and seems so knowledgable that...hey, I was impressed.
I mean, it certainly beat that famous literary appraisal "That sucks" and was even a little more sophisticated than "I don't know why I didn't like it. Does there have to be a reason for everything?"
There usually is, whether we realize it or not.
Thanks to Big A little a for the link.
Fantasy is a genre that remains in many respect still undeveloped. References to 19th century precursors do not really tackle the fact that it only really began as a literature with the proper discovery of Tolkien in the 60s and 70s Someone knowledgeable in the field can point you to a range of books of good calibre, quite a few probably, but they do not necessarily represent the whole, they often tend to be exceptions.
Part of the problem is that writers of good calibre are put off by the stigma attached to fantasy as literature, and in general in our still prevalent paradigm of literary realism , surely an anochronism in today times, it is seen as escapism rather than another way of telling a story about who we are.
Having said this. It become increasingly important as a literature in the contemporary world. Not only because of the popularity of the LOTR movies and Harry Potter, but because it is a literature well suited to the sorts of realities modern 'consumers' live in.
With so much of the identity mediated through multiple images and reflections of the self in popular culture, be it in advertising, or soaps or big screen entertainment, fantasy is one of the forms of writing well equipped to dramatise and make salient aspects of the emotional and mythological landscape which is so much a part of our day to day lives. Basically our world is internalised through external images which constantly change and only reflect realities relevant to a group of political party or business selling something, do not represent a coherent reality.
The world out there is increasingly a world where we struggle to find the right emotional reasonances within a constructed virtual landscape with so many choices. Fantasy as a literature, able to project the internal into a reality of a writer's choosing has the potential to help make sense of that world in a way that reflects the crazy unreal landscape we ourselves experience from day to day.
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