Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genres that Don't Exist

I don't believe in children's books. Or young adult fiction. I believe in everyone books. In creating a special section for children or young adults in our book stores, are we not limiting the books they are exposed to? What young adult will go to the barnes and noble Classics section when they can see across the way an array of candy colored books sporting images of hot guys and girls in mini dresses?
I'm not saying that books defined by that genre have no credibility, merely asking what makes it embarrassing if a not so young adult reads that same book? Teen Fiction is, in general, a genre written by grown ups who have forgotten. They don't remember how frustrating it was when they were teens, reading books about people who didn't resemble them at all, hardly resembled humans. This is in turn due to the forgetting; a dangerous spiral. The genre feeds on itself.
Oh, sure, there have been special books through the years, books labled as "transcending genres", but shouldn't all books be like that? What is wrong about adults reading children's books for their own enjoyment? Why would we read them to our kids if we did not believe them to contain some sort of intrinsic value? Similarly, why is it that at some point reading a book like
Gossip Girl or The Clique turns from being respectable into being a guilty pleasure? Those books, while enjoyable, shouldn't morph with the age of the reader. They are trashy no matter at when you read them.
So many times in my life have I heard the words "Isn't that a little mature for you, Phoebe? Aren't you too young for that?" NO, I always wanted to scream. No.
Just the other day I was talking to my brother's girlfriend about Jane Austen. "I was kind of a pretentious kid," says she, "I read all of Austen in Middle School." "Yeah." I answered, "I did too." Why is that pretentious? I was asking within myself. Because Jane Austen doesn't suck?
I believe in everyone books. When I was three and four I would sit quietly and listen to the chapter books my brothers and mother were reading aloud, all of us transfixed by the story. A story transcending generations, age devides, everything. Where do you find that story in the book store? I'll tell you where I would look. In the literature section. The sad thing is, though, I don't think that that is where I would find it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Children's Stories that Change Lives

1.)Harry Potter. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. The series taught me how to read more than my Kindergarten teachers ever could. I believe in those novels not merely as childish entertainment, or fun fantasy adventures, but also as sources of a beautiful moral code. The triumph of love over evil. The choice "between what is right and what is easy." I have friends who make fun of me and call Harry Potter "little kid's books", but children's books that have this huge of a cultural impact should not be, in my opinion, taken lightly. The series has even spawned it's own charity organization, and a music movement called wizard rock (of which I personally am a part), which is comprised of dorks who "help kids read. help kids rock.". And why not? This is not the first time that so called children's tales have made a difference.

2.)Grimm's Fairy Tales. The fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm have morphed over the years, becoming less scary, becoming musicals, becoming more mod
ern, but through it all they have, in essence, remained intact. These tales have changed lives not merely through their lasting claims on our society, however, but what is more through their collection resulting in the unification of Germany and the re-drawing of the map of Europe. When the stories were first collected by the Brother's Grimm, Germany was in a rather bad way, a loose conglomeration of states rather than a contry, with possible war brewing from all fronts. To survive, Germany would have to unite. The problem was that the people of each state saw themselves as individuals, unwilling to unite with "foreigners" . When the fairy tales were collected, people began to realize that they did, in fact, have a shared culture. The stories were a key part of the birth of a German cultural identity and thus led, indirectly maybe, but still, led to the unification of Germany. Which country's unification have you led to today?

3.)"The Little Prince". If you have not read this book, read this book. Apart from the beautifully lingering illustrations, this story will make you cry. Or at least it will make me cry. Every. Goddamn. Time. Once you have read "The Little Prince", you will never not have read "The Little Prince" again. Which I guess you could say with anything, but with this story it feels as though it means something more. If you have read "The Little Prince", check out this xkcd comic strip:


4.)"Winnie the Pooh". "If you live to be 100, I hope i live to be 100 minus one day, so that I never have to live without you." This is the "Awwwww!" moment everyone so loves. I mean, come on. That's adorable. And that's not all. I mean Winnie the Pooh comes at you with the sentimental childhood tearjerkers over, and over, and over."Promise me you'll never forget me because if i thought you would I'd never leave."
But "Winnie the Pooh" is more than just adorable. It's a children's story that's magical but feels real; every child's stuffed animals become Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Eeyore and the gang. Every child's back yard becomes the hundred acre wood. And have you checked out these books? The Te Of Piglet and The Tao of Pooh.

It may be true that I get more out of these books now than I did as a little kid(Not the tao books, but the children's books, I mean), but that just goes to show that they are timeless classics.
If anyone has anything they think should be added to the list, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top Ten First Sentences

10. "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

9. "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York." The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

8. "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice" 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriell Garcia Marquez

7. "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

6. "Mr and Mrs Dursley of number 4 Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling

5. "Whomsoever could do the Most Incredible Thing was to have the hand of the king's daughter and half the kingdom" The Most Incredible Thing, Hans Christian Anderson

4. "Mother died today." The Stranger, Albert Camus

3. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

2. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

1. "For a long time I used to go to bed early." Swann's Way, Marcel Proust

Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments! (if you exist...)

Vampires, what's up with that?

I know it's been a while, well all right, a long while since my last post, which was also my first post, and I apologize.
This post may offend you. Just a warning.
But only if you like bad books.
Recently, I have been embareced in bookstores to even be seen in the section of books set aside for people of my age group, namely: the young adult section. Granted, some decent books remain, but I can't help longing for the days when The Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders and such like were the most popular "teen" fiction books around. And I didn't even exist in those days. Now you walk into the young adult section and this is what you see:

Now maybe I'm judging books by their covers, but...really? I think the main problem with these books is that they were written by people who have forgotten what it means to be young, thus they turn to how teenager-dom is presented in the media, which was in turn created by people who have forgotten what it feels like. Thus the genre feeds on itself. And possibly is creating, not abolishing, the lack of avid teen readers. But I could go on like this forever. It will have to be a different post. On to the subject of the post at hand:
The main perpetrator of this, and the one I take most issue with, is possibly the most famous: Twilight. I read Twilight, it was fun, it was fast, it was a guilty pleasure. But once you take it seriously, and start to look for symbolism and deeper meaning that's not there, and get offended when it's not someone's favorite book, you've taken it to far. Once you won't be happy unless you're boyfriend is Edward Cullen, it's too much. Girls, just a thought, but your boyfriends are probably going to want to do more than just watch you while you sleep. And, while vampires do have a certain "bad boy" appeal, I'd take Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff anyday.
Apart from the books prevailing disconnect with true teen life (the charactors are flat, the highschool doesn't exist, the romance is unbelievable), there is the problem of the way Bella can't exist when Edward's not around. Neither of them are individuals, they are basically codependant. That's not healthy. And when this dependence filters through the pages and into the readers, so that they can't exist without Edward, then that's become a problem. A disgusting, dehumanization, of thousands of preteen girls. They can't exist without a vampire lover. They need their vampire love to save them. If you absolutely have to read a book about obsessive love, why not read one that doesn't have the side effect of, when taken to far, turning you into an idiot? Read Wuthering Heights. At least that's well written.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh yo, sweet world!

Hi, everybody. Nobody? Somebody? Is this silly? But silly is good, or okay anyway. So, I guess, here goes.
A few days ago I was seized by a unexpected carpe diem attitude, a desire to re-watch Dead Poets Society, and to re-read a certain oft-quoted part of Walden central to said film, all of which, I confess, is rather unlike me as usually, no matter how beautiful, the above things succeed in making my stomach churl. However, at the time, I was enchanted. I resolved that every day I would try something new. This resolution came most probably from the feeling of uselessness which sitting around all summer reading books and going on facebook day after day after day brings about so skillfully. I was three days in, my accomplishments were not momentous; I had tried Dunkin' Donuts' new grape coolada, learned how to grout bathroom tiles and sewn the hem of a skirt. The fourth day was drawing to a close. I had no way of leaving my house. And so I made this blog. True, it was just another way of being on the internet, and, given, it probably would (and look at that it did) end up being about books, both tried old enjoyments of mine, but it was something, and I figured that something was always a good thing with which to start.
This may have been, or sounded to be, incredibly pretentious, and I'm sorry. I've never written a blog before. But hey I'm trying. So here goes. Thoreau, I hope your happy.