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Showing posts from October, 2009

Rude Words and Piracy: A High Wind in Jamaica and the Child Reader

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Richard Hughes's first and most famous book, A High Wind in Jamaica, is one of the strangest novels I've ever read, which is really saying something. It's both delightful and disturbing in the way it presents -- in an unfailingly light tone -- children as amoral aliens. The novel is rich with irony, and it's not a satire so much as a relentless attack on sentimental notions of childhood. The possible interpretations of the novel are likely endless, but in many ways the book itself is about interpretation -- about the futility of trying to interpret a child's experiences and thoughts through adult eyes. (It's also worth noting that the novel was first published in the U.S. under the title The Innocent Voyage, which I'm rather more fond of than its better-known title. It was also once illustrated by Lynd Ward.)

I was surprised this morning to discover an essay by British teacher Victoria de Rijke in a 1995 issue of Children's Literature in Education, &…

Life of Book, Sound of Finch, Meer of Vander

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Jeff VanderMeer has posted a picture of copies of the actual Booklife, which excites me very much, because it's a neat book (yes, I still say "neat"; deal with it) and includes a little essay-thing I wrote at the end (alongside various essay-things by more interesting and less conflicted writers than I). Full contents here. I'm planning to keep a stock of extra copies of Booklife always on hand to give to the various aspiring and aspired writers I encounter, because it really does get at some stuff that I haven't seen elsewhere, and, well, I kind of had an addiction to writers' guides for a decade or so, which makes me oddly and a bit ashamedly qualified to make a statement like that. (The thing is, most writing guides are really terrible. Really. But not all.) Booklife is one of the few books I've seen to really address the life part of it all, rather than just the craft, and it does so in a way that is generous and suggestive rather than prescrip…

Of Essays and Norton Readers

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The ever-extraordinary Anne Fernald has just put up a post asking for recommendations of essays, since she is on the advisory board for The Norton Reader and they're planning a new edition.

I have an extraordinary fondness for The Norton Reader, though some of that fondness is, as they say, extra-textual. The textual fondness is that I think it's a wonderfully generous selection of stuff -- in fact, I like it so much I've assigned the book in classes, and if I ever taught such a class again, I'd almost certainly use it again. The extra-textual fondness is entirely for John C. Brereton, one of the main editors of the book, who, almost exactly one year ago, had the excellent taste to marry one of my best friends and mentors.

So I care a lot about The Norton Reader.

And I like essays.

Thus, while my students were taking tests this afternoon, I thought about essays to recommend to the folks at the NR. My thoughts are all a-jumble on this topic, though, because I hardly know…