|Vignette by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad|
What a lot of grief you are getting for publishing an article about how adults ought to be embarrassed to read children's books. ("Against YA" by Ruth Graham.) I guess maybe that was the point, as it is so often the point in these days. To get attention. To cause a commotion, a hullaballoo, a hoo-ha. To make a sort of paparazzi fuss, all lightbulbs and yelling and jeering. I'm a bit tired of the ruckus, you hear?
A long time ago C. S. Lewis told us that "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." Likewise, Maurice Sendak made it clear that it was whether books were good that mattered. And as to fantasy and fantasizing being for children, he said, "I believe there is no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young."
I agree with Lewis and Sendak. Ages and genres make no difference at all. Being packed with energy and life counts the most when it comes to a book, not some idea of audience age and kind or mode. I read the Alice books when I was five, and I am still reading them today. Stand where two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and take the way with the nooks for reading and the stones for skipping and the books without labels, without ages. Hey, it'll make all the difference.
P. S. To somewhat change the subject, I don't like the idea that grownups desire to read weak, thin, smarmy books. And that's where the real criticism is hidden, I think--in the idea that some people are content with such books, whether they are written for toddlers, young adults, or grownups. And the writer assumes that children's books are, indeed, lesser, and that an adult could not have a rich experience reading them. Carroll. Sendak. L'Engle. Those are a few of many arguments against that thought.
P. S. So you don't think I'm being mean to her, here's another article by Ruth Graham--a highly sensible proposal that suggests that maybe we've dropped something we should pick up again, revised for our own day.
Notes on my recent books, no. 2
In THALIAD, Marly Youmans has written a powerful and beautiful saga of seven children who escape a fiery apocalypse----though "written" is hardly the word to use, as this extraordinary account seems rather "channeled" or dreamed or imparted in a vision, told in heroic poetry of the highest calibre. Amazing, mesmerizing, filled with pithy wisdom, THALIAD is a work of genius which also seems particularly relevant to our own time. --Lee Smith