Monday, May 05, 2008

Writing For Adult Readers?

Recently I've been wondering if the adult readership that children's literature now has is shaping its content a bit. I've been reading children's books that I, myself, enjoy, but which I can't help thinking are directed just a little too much toward me.

You may recall that I liked Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by J.T. Petty, but wondered if the "word play and humor" wasn't a bit too sophisticated. Right now I'm reading Clemency Pogue: The Hobgoblin Proxy. I'm finding the plot a little challenging, anyway, and if the goblin Chaphesmeeso's wit is directed to 8- to 12-year-old readers, they must be very highly educated 8- to 12-year-olds.

In one place Clemency asks Chaph if he is still fast, meaning can he dig through the earth quickly. His response is, "As a hunger artist."

Now, maybe if kids know what "fasting" is, they will get the connection between fasting and hunger. But "hunger artist" refers to performers who starved themselves and charged people to look at them. I only know the expression because a couple of years ago I was part of an on-line reading group, and we read the short story A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka.

Aren't references like this meant for adult readers rather than the children for whom the books are supposedly published?

2 comments:

MotherReader said...

I've been saving these quotes from the book for a special occasion, and they fit with your topic. I laughed out loud at them, but couldn't imagine that a kid would get them at all.

"The hobgoblins, the girl, and the increasingly
impatient fairy watched from behind the bottom half of a door that opened like a scandalous bathing suit, in two pieces. This being France, the top was open."

"I've come to the rescue!" Kenn had proudly whispered, clutching the jar between his knees, and with both hands unscrewing the lid. There was a principle at work here, an equal and opposite reaction for every action. The jar was unscrewed, and Kenn was quite the opposite.

I think it's the Rowling Principle at work here - authors hope that their books will be the one that crosses the age line.

gail said...

Yes! I noticed both those quotes, too! They were very clever (especially the one about poor Kenn), but I think they were there for you and me.

I like your suggestion about the Rowling Principle. But I don't think Rowling was trying to cross the age line. Nothing like
her books had existed before (except maybe something like Alice in Wonderland, and that was a very long time ago), so I don't think she would have even known to try to do such a thing. The cards were just dealt for her in that way.

As a general rule, I think writers are better off to stay on task. Decide whether you're writng for fish or fowl and then do it.