Roger Sutton has been making noises over at Read Roger about the next issue of The Horn Book. So I thought it was high time I finished reading the present one.
Over the last couple of years when problem novels have been discussed at listservs, I’ve often read about concerns regarding bibliotherapy. Were problem novels being used as bibliotherapy? Should they be “used” so? Therefore, I was interested in reading Maeve Visser Knoth's Horn Book article What Ails Bibliotherapy? Knoth, who is a librarian and not a therapist, is uncomfortable with adults who try to fit a problem book with a child’s problem. She suggests that books dealing with life problems be read before the children have them. “Rather than address what is happening in the present, I am inclined to prepare children for emotional experiences before they occur. I would rather inoculate children than treat the symptoms of the emotional trauma.”
Later Knoth says, “My main objection to bibliotherapy as practiced by many parents and teachers is that books, for all the good they do, can be limiting and can be too close to a situation....What if, after thirty-two pages, the reader does not feel better? What if he feels worse?"
What indeed. I, an adult, often don't get what I think I'm supposed to from books. I've become pretty hardened to that situation, though. Jaded, in fact.
Perhaps having untrained people trying to use books therapeutically on others is like having your relatives try to fix you up with someone. "This book is just the thing for you! I know you'll love it. You have so much in common with the main character. She's just like you."
Haven't we all heard that one before?
My quick search of the Web suggests that bibliotherapy is used with children, not adults. Man, just think what it would be like to go to a therapist who treated adults with bibliotherapy. I'd be making up problems so I could go.
Sarah Ellis had a really clever essay at the end of The Horn Book called Title to Come. As you may have guessed, it's about not being able to think of a title for a manuscript. As you may have also guessed, it struck very close to home. There's no title in sight for my next book.
"...all the good titles have been taken," Ellis says. So true. So very true.
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