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Alfred and Guinevere

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  137 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
One of the finest American poets of the second half of the twentieth century, James Schuyler was at the same time a remarkable novelist. Alfred and Guinevere are two children who have been sent by their parents to spend the summer at their grandmother's house in the country. There they puzzle over their parents' absence and their relatives' habits, play games and pranks, m ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published November 30th 2000 by NYRB Classics (first published 1958)
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Feb 21, 2014 Tony rated it liked it
A charming invention.

Imagine you are young, pre-teen let’s say, and precocious of course, living in somewhat of a cocoon, your world the small family that is the accident of your birth. You are learning the way of things, but mostly from circumstantial evidence: vicariously through books; confusingly from the joking, not always playful nature of adults. And then your family fractures. You are not told directly, the grown-ups still sorting it through. Daddy is off to Europe for work. Mummy will
Karl Steel
Jun 07, 2008 Karl Steel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of the editing in Malick's Days of Heaven + The Young Visitors
Recommended to Karl by: Stoop Sale + the publisher itself + my own bourgeois striving
Compulsively readable, suitable for the dinner table, this camp novel is set largely in the dialog of two children, a young boy and his (presumably) 14-15ish sister. Are children naturally campy? After all, can't we say that camp is a funny (or wry? or deliberate: and if deliberate, strike the previous suggestion) version of the uncanny? And what's more uncanny, and prone to sensations of uncanniness, than a child?

A representative bit, when Alfred wants to add something to the letter Guinevere i
Feb 14, 2015 Pascale rated it liked it
A real charmer. Most of the story takes place during the space of a summer. Alfred and his older sister Guinevere end up staying with their granny and their uncle during an unhappy time in their parents' marriage. They make friends with local kids while hoping they will soon get to join their father in France. A lot of the story is told through dialogue, Guinevere's diary entries and her letters to various people. Every page draws a smile.
Geri Degruy
Jan 04, 2016 Geri Degruy rated it liked it
Childhood. Trying to understand what is going on and making guesses based on your own young perceptions, sometimes very accurate. Picking up meanings in what is not said. Dealing with adults, mostly on their terms, even when that seems foolish. Loving and disliking your sibling. Friends who have not yet learned to be friends.

A quick read about a family through the eyes of the 2 children.
Oct 10, 2015 Ruth rated it liked it
I usually like old-fashioned books about precocious kids, especially when there's a bit of an adult edge, and this one didn't disappoint.
Aug 31, 2013 Cassandra rated it liked it
This was a very odd book, without any real plot, more evocation of character and of relationship; the title characters are children, brother and sister, and it is all through their view, no wise narrator seeing from outside, some of it the girl's diary, the rest all dialogue. I see how others found it funny, but for myself, it was... painful. I do not mean poorly written, quite the contrary; it had that mix of naiveté (which so many people mistake for innocence) and cynicism which is characteris ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
Fans of Schuyler's poetry (and J.D. Salinger's short stories) might enjoy this short novel about brother and sister from the city who spend a summer at their Uncle's in the 'burbs. What's For Dinner? seems like a more fully-formed work (whatever that means) than this book, but it was a light, funny read that made me smile on the beach (beach not included with purchase of book).
Philip Bardach
Apr 22, 2013 Philip Bardach rated it really liked it
There's a wonderful rhythm to the language that never feels affected. Another notable and less discussed virtue of Alfred and Guinevere is how nuanced and well presented the darker elements of the adult world are, not fully comprehended and processed through the eyes of the pre-adolescent characters.
Jan 12, 2010 Terri rated it liked it
This is maybe a 3.5 star book. It's quite enjoyable, and the author really pegs the voices of these two precocious children. Reading passages from Guinevere's diary often felt a little like looking back at my own adolescent diary.
Nov 12, 2007 Bradley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people
This is a sweet book about childhood and disillusionment. James Schuyler writes from a kid's perspective in an authentic and compelling way. It's subtle, funny and heartbreaking at the same time - reminds me of JD Salinger!
Nov 24, 2009 Amber rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Salingerites
Recommended to Amber by: Foyles
Shelves: read-adult
Schuyler has a perfect ear for the thoughts and speech of real children. How could this self-described "jolly, overweight" middle-aged man so perfectly capture what it feels like to be a 13 year old girl? Amazing.
Feb 07, 2008 Christopher rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Charming and sophisticated. A view of adult affairs through the eyes of two precocious children (the title characters). Am homage to James's What Maisie Knew. Should I have liked it more? It's slight.
Oct 28, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
An interesting little novella from 1958. The protagonists are two young siblings. Their interaction reminds me some of Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Alex Schmidt
Oct 18, 2008 Alex Schmidt rated it really liked it
SImple, light and breezy. Much LIke his poetry. But when I say light I am referring to the way it reads. This doesn't mean the book has no profundity.
May 04, 2011 Sonya rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is more a novella than novel. It's funny in the right places, and just ambiguous enough to please Henry James.
Oct 31, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
Cute short kids story, but with adult undertones... incredible at being simple, and leave you guessing.
Nov 29, 2011 Linden rated it liked it
Basic story of two children-a quick read, but not that memorable. NYRB.
Aug 11, 2012 Kaleb rated it it was ok
Elizabeth Bradley
Aug 23, 2007 Elizabeth Bradley rated it it was ok
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NYRB Classics: Alfred and Guinevere, by James Schuyler 1 6 Oct 18, 2013 11:11AM  
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