J.G. Keely's Reviews > Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jun 02, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, humor, reviewed, uk-and-ireland

I think that the failure not only of Children's Literature as a whole, but of our very concept of children and the child's mind is that we think it a crime to challenge and confront that mind. Children are first protected from their culture--kept remote and safe--and then they are thrust incongruously into a world that they have been told is unsafe and unsavory; and we expected them not to blanch.

It has been my policy that the best literature for children is not a trifling thing, not a simplification of the adult or a sillier take on the world. Good Children's literature is some of the most difficult literature to write because one must challenge, engage, please, and awe a mind without resorting to archetypes or life experience.

Once a body grows old enough, we are all saddened by the thought of a breakup. We have a set of knowledge and memories. The pain returns to the surface. Children are not born with these understandings, so to make them understand pain, fear, and loss is no trivial thing. The education of children is the transformation of an erratic and hedonistic little beast into a creature with a rational method by which to judge the world.

A child must be taught not to fear monsters but to fear instead electrical outlets, pink slips, poor people, and lack of social acceptance. The former is frightening in and of itself, the latter for complex, internal reasons. I think the real reason that culture often fears sexuality and violence in children is because they are such natural urges. We fear to trigger them because we cannot control the little beasts. We cannot watch them every minute.

So, to write Children's Literature, an author must create something complex and challenging, something that the child can turn over in their mind without accidentally revealing some terrible aspect of the world that the child is not yet capable of dealing with. Carroll did this by basing his fantasies off of complex, impersonal structures: linguistics and mathematical theory. These things have all the ambiguity, uncertainty, and structure of the grown-up world without the messy, human parts.

This is also why the Alice stories fulfill another requirement I have for Children's Lit: that it be just as intriguing and rewarding for adults. There is no need to limit the depth in books for children, because each reader will come away with whatever they are capable of finding. Fill an attic with treasures and the child who enters it may find any number of things--put a single coin in a room and you ensure that the child will find it, but nothing more.

Of course, we must remember that nothing we can write will ever be more strange or disturbing to a child than the pure, unadulterated world that we will always have failed to prepare them for. However, perhaps we can fail a little less and give them Alice. Not all outlets are to be feared, despite what your parents taught you. In fact, some should be prodded with regularity, and if you dare, not a little joy.
339 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

02/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 74) (74 new)

message 1: by Allison (new)

Allison What a stirring review. I was riveted. I hope you are a lit teacher or a professional writer so that many people hear what you have to say and the beauty with which you say it.

J.G. Keely I am unemployed in every conceivable regard. While this may not separate me from your average professional writer, I'm afraid I feel quite separate from them by the difficulty I have in finishing any writing. That is to say: the difficulty I have ever had with ever being satisfied by what I do.

Your kind words rekindle the memory of old hopes in my breast, but it's been a while since I dared to dream that I might ever make a living with writing. Indeed, I find it hard enough to make a living with living.

I'm glad if you enjoyed something I've made, and thank you for it.

message 3: by Dave (last edited Dec 07, 2008 01:34PM) (new)

Dave After roughly a year of comment, I intrude now in an attempt to reverse any doubt regarding your writing ability (and because I was looking for anti-keely quotes). There are so many inadequate and mediocre "professional" reviewers out there, and I think you have a real chance at getting to where you wanted to go.

J.G. Keely Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for people to start lining up to read what I have to write.

And anyways, if it takes people a year to decide whether I'm any good, they'll probably just buy someone else's book.

message 5: by Dave (last edited Dec 08, 2008 12:54PM) (new)

Dave Good point, but i've never seen this review before(If that's what you meant).

Lisa Interesting thoughts lost in an sea of murky syntax.

message 8: by Dave (last edited Apr 16, 2009 12:46PM) (new)

Dave Interesting comment irrelevant to the topic at hand. Or rather at hand months ago.

J.G. Keely If you're talking about Lisa's comment, I think it was aimed purely at the original review.

message 10: by Dave (new)

Dave Yes, I was. But only because we actually did have murky syntax.

J.G. Keely Syntax looks concise enough to me. It's no Bierce, but I don't see any hyphens out of place.

message 12: by Dave (new)

Dave Fine, the murky syntax belongs to me

Duffy Pratt the child can test and turn over in their mind???

also the same sentence confuses process with result, I think. I'm not sure what "the process of Children's Literature" is. It sounds important, but it's not clear to me that it means anything.

Otherwise, I like the basic ideas here.

J.G. Keely Mmm, guess I do have some murky syntax. I was trying to indicate that the children would recieve ideas that they could then explore within the mind: testing them, turning them over to look at all sides.

The latter should probably have read "the process of writing Children's Literature".

Thanks. There's always more editing to be done.

J.G. Keely Glad there's someone else there who expects more from children, and don't worry about your English, no problems there. Hope you enjoy Alice.

Anabelee Very interesting review. I have no children, but I agree with your thoughts, and found your words very near to my point of view.
Thank you.

J.G. Keely Thanks for the kind comment, I'm glad you enjoyed my review.

message 18: by Milo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Milo Awesome review, Keely. Quite the intellectual, if I may say so myself. Your thoughts are right on the money.

J.G. Keely This is one of my favorite reviews that I've written--one of those where I go through and read it and feel like it was written by someone else. Glad it resonated with you.

message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul I poked a knife in an outlet and learned a valuable lesson.

J.G. Keely I hope it was about the true meaning of friendship.

message 22: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Murky syntax or no, there are far worse writers who get paid for their work. One would be ill advised to wait for perfection before taking the next step towards one's dreams... it's an unfortunate habit I catch myself in often. I'm not entirely sure that Alice teaches that one outright, but it's a life lesson I'm finding quite valuable these days. Anyhow. I enjoyed your review, this sentence: "We must remember that nothing we can come up with will be more strange or disturbing to a child than the pure, unadulterated world that we will always have failed to prepare them for," particularly struck home for me. Since graduating from college over a year ago, I have found myself quite paralyzed with fear of that pure, unadulterated world and am only just beginning to face it again with strength drawn from the stories of characters progressing through their own strange, confusing and sometimes terrible journeys.

J.G. Keely " . . . there are far worse writers who get paid for their work."

It's true, but part of the reason I still find the world rather paralyzing is that a person's skill seems to bear little to no relation to how much they are paid. Indeed, to be truly successful, one must practice mediocrity, not excellence.

". . . with strength drawn from the stories of characters progressing through their own strange, confusing and sometimes terrible journeys."

Such stories are indeed inspirational, which makes it all the more depressing that the majority of stories show people easily succeeding. Perhaps if we had more stories that showed heroes dealing with hardship and failure, we might be better at facing it, ourselves.

Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you liked the review.

message 24: by Nicole (new)

Nicole From what I've seen of the world, it's not mediocrity that leads to success but superiority in determination, networking and skill at business (the latter two can be learned, thankfully). Unfortunately, the quality of the product or service rendered can fall second to these things, but this does not mean one cannot succeed as well- if not better with a quality product or skill than one can with a mediocre one.

This is not to say some compromise may need to be made, with anything one sells, the needs of the consumer must also be taken into account and balanced against the creator's ideal vision for his or her product.

J.G. Keely Those traits certainly do help in business, but they will only take you so far. I suppose it depends what you mean by 'success'. I've known some Type-A personalities who were set to take the business world by storm, who had determination and skill in spades, but who eventually hit a ceiling.

Sure, they had fairly good jobs and did competent work, and if you consider that success, then sure, but from what I know of the politics of success in business, being 'good at your job' only gets you so far. There are other factors than those which seem to be much more important if you desire to control your own fate in the business world.

One of these is having connections--not merely being able to network, but having people who are willing to go over other people's heads to give you a position even if you don't have as much experience or as many qualifications as other applicants. Often, this falls under 'nepotism'. Secondly there is the ability to 'play the game', meaning taking credit for the successes of those you manage, and making them the scapegoats for any failures.

There's a rather interesting article about this dynamic, The Gervais Principle, which takes insights from the classic books on politics and communication in business and uses examples from the American TV show 'The Office' to illustrate how these theories play out.

But when I was talking about mediocrity overcoming excellence, I was talking about product, not about producers. Namely, that people who get their books published are rarely the most skilled writers--often they are not particularly skilled at all. And of those books which are published, the ones that are the most successful (read: sell the most copies) are almost never exceptional, because the average person is neither looking for nor capable of recognizing an exceptional book.

There is a similar problem in business: for the best person to get the job, the person in charge of giving out jobs must be able to recognize which applicant is actually the best. This is immediately problematic because the people who hire and promote almost never have the skills necessary to recognize who is 'best'.

Imagine there is a position open for a computer coder, and the manager must promote one of the coders he employs. If he doesn't understand the intricacies of coding, how can he pick the best coder? How can he judge who was responsible for what? Who created the successful pieces, and who the flawed ones? Who was the most efficient, overall?

It's a problem I ran into often while working at a big multinational: our bosses simply couldn't tell who was doing the better work, because they were not versed in the intricacies of that work. In the end, it tended to come down to which one of us looked like we were working the hardest, not the most determined or skilled, but who was most able to take credit and avoid blame.

Likewise, the average reader is not in a good position to judge who the best writers are. The channels through which they become aware of books are not based on which writers are best, but which writers have the biggest marketing budget. The ability to judge the quality of writing is limited by experiences which, for the average reader, will be small. So it makes sense that, looking back over the centuries, the best writers were often unknown in their own time, while the bestsellers of the past are nearly all forgotten today.

The publishing world begins to resemble a Walmart economy, where a plethora of low-quality goods are marketed heavily to an uninformed public who responds to familiarity and convenience and is unable to judge quality.

It's true that a company can find success with a high-quality product, but since most people cannot judge quality at the time of purchase, on average, mediocre products will tend to perform as well as good ones, and since it costs a company more time and money to create a good product, mediocre products will seem the more attractive option.

This is especially true if the company can still market the mediocre product as a good one and charge a large price for it, such as in the case of extremely expensive speaker cables. On one instance, the cable creators split the cable into two signals to 'maintain fidelity' despite the fact that the split cables fed into a single plug on either end, meaning that they were splitting and recombining a single signal and claiming it somehow aided fidelity. It makes about as much sense as cutting a Christmas present in two before mailing it in hopes it will increase the chances of each piece getting there unharmed.

But I digress. As long as the public is mostly unable to judge good from bad, and as long as their contact with new products is governed mainly by the size of marketing budgets, there's no reason to think that the quality of my writing will have anything to do with my ability to be employed as a writer. Luckily, my motivation for writing has nothing to do with the promise of employment.

Thanks for your comment, sorry for the overly long reply, and good luck with your own 'strange, confusing, and sometimes terrible journey'.

message 26: by Irma (new) - added it

Irma Rodriguez All of this was interesting to read. Except for the negative comment about syntax. Who asked her opinion? ;)

A number of things hit home for me. 1) I am a mom and I do hope to do the best job I can to prepare my sons for life. 2) I think unemployment is a choice one makes. There are many mediocre jobs to be had if only just to pay for food and shelter. One may not be living their dreams but one can work towards it. I apologize if this sounds harsh but I say it with love. You (Keely) sound intelligent enough to hold a steady paying job. It may not be something you want to do but it can be a starting point.

I'm still working on number 3 or more insights of mine to share but as I mentioned, I'm a mom of 2 boys and I'm lucky to get 5 minutes alone. ;)

J.G. Keely "There are many mediocre jobs to be had if only just to pay for food and shelter."

You're lucky that this has been your experience, I know it's not true for everyone. Then again, the unemployment rate in the NYC area is about twice as bad as it is, nationally, so that is part of it. There's also the fact that, as an educated, middle-class person, there are a lot of lower-end jobs that you simply won't be hired for, because the person doing the hiring thinks of you as 'over qualified' and expects that you'll leave the job quickly, especially if it is unpleasant, unrewarding work.

I've had friends with education, experience, and training put out hundreds of resumes every year, only get half a dozen responses, and then never get called back for any of those jobs, despite the fact that many were mediocre, lower-level jobs for which they were over-qualified.

"You (Keely) sound intelligent enough to hold a steady paying job."

I agree, but that doesn't mean I'll be hired in the first place. I've had several jobs in the years since that first comment--one of which even required some literary writing--but every one of those was a job I got through someone I knew on the inside, not a response to sending my resume out or applying. Unfortunately, several of these jobs were seasonal, and for others, the business was forced to close.

Again, I think you're lucky if you've always been able to find work if you needed it, because that hasn't been the experience of most people I know. Maybe you think unemployment is a choice, but tell that to friends of mine who applied to two jobs a day for a year and never get hired.

Thanks for the comment, and do feel free to add any other insights, if you find the time.

Traveller Hmmm, I might be imagining it, but I have a feeling you wrote a very similar review for Alice in Wonderland,(as a standalone) which I "liked" and commented on.

Nevermind, it deserves a "like" so now you have another like on this one as well. :)

J.G. Keely Haha, yes. I copy/pasted it to Wonderland, Looking-Glass, and this combined edition so friends and followers could see it even if they had rated a different version.

message 30: by Mr. (new) - rated it 1 star

Mr. I like this review better than Wonderland's series of disjointed randomness.

J.G. Keely Actually, the Alice stories aren't random, they are a mixture of satire on the mathematics of 'imaginary numbers' which was being developed in Carroll's time and playing with linguistic structures and meanings.

message 32: by Akash (last edited Mar 13, 2012 12:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Akash Makkar Lucky I decided to read this review of yours and then the comments.Judging by the comments that you made above,I think that we have a similar view point of the world.I see in you a smarter and more experienced version of me,although the final realization that being good at what you do doesn't guarantee a successful career is disheartening.I guess I'll have to try and become very good in the field that I have chosen and see how that goes.

J.G. Keely It is disheartening to realize that simply being good at something doesn't mean you'll be successful. I remember when I realized that, and it was a difficult lesson to learn.

I was a 'gifted' child and all I ever got from my teachers was praise. I drifted through school and never felt challenged. I remember being surprised and confused as a young man in college when I realized that no one was going to give me a job for being smart.

Then I got into the working world and realized that a lot of people who get hired are not that good at their jobs. There is a minimum level of skill in order to be hired, but it's not the primary reason people get hired. People get hired because of who they know and how good they are at marketing themselves. It's often just a question of how a person spends their time: imagine one person spends 90% of their time studying in their field and 10% trying to improve their employment, then imagine someone who spends 10% of their time studying and 90% on self-promotion. Which one is going to be better at the job? Which one is more likely to get the job?

The system is not built around getting the most qualified people into the bets positions, it's built around short-term profits, and employees get treated the same way as products. Finding and hiring the most intelligent people would be time-consuming and expensive, so it's easier for companies to hire mediocre people who will do the bare minimum. It's like how it's easier for a company to sell a cheap product for a quick profit rather than spend years of research to make a high-quality, expensive product with a lower margin of profit.

I remember reading the autobiography of Kerry Mullis, Nobel Prize winner for discovering polymerase chain reaction. Like many scientists, he spent years working for industry because it paid better than academia. One day he pulled a bottle of NaCl off of the shelf and noticed there was a warning on it which talked about the dangers of sodium and chlorine gas, which are both deadly.

Yet when they bond together, they form table salt, which is completely harmless. How can a company hire the best scientists, judge the work they do, and create a good working environment if they don't know the difference between a weaponized gas and a food additive? And that's been my experience in business: the people in charge don't have enough knowledge of the day-to-day running of the company to recognize the best candidates.

In the end, I decided it's more important to me to be good at what I do, I just don't expect to become wealthy doing it. I would rather be a skilled author with no job than a crap author with bestsellers, which is why I'm one of those people who are 90% study, 10% promotion.

I think it comes down to the same thing for most people, because there are only so many hours in a day, and you have to choose how to spend them. Some people think it's worthwhile to work long hours doing something that means nothing to them in order to be paid a certain wage. For others, they would rather struggle making little money at a job that challenges and interests them.

For me, it's the latter. I have the same rule for jobs as for books: if I don't come away from it knowing and understanding more than I did when I started, it wasn't worth my time. In any case, thanks for the comment, and I hope you will be able to take pride in being good at what you do, regardless of whether you get recognition for it.

message 34: by Akash (last edited Mar 13, 2012 11:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Akash Makkar Dude same here,I count school as a massive waste of time.I did really well without breaking a sweat and learned nothing which will help me in life,which is the reason I hate my country's education system.

On your comments on the industry,I'm totally with you.Just a few weeks ago I was wondering what else I can do if I don't make it as a contemporary dancer outside of India in a country with an evolved dance culture and one where mediocre people are not sitting at the top(if everything goes as planned,I will be in NYC in September,we should meet),the exact same thought struck my mind.I can't expect people to hire me just because I'm smart.Also,how can I prove to them that I'm smart,if they don't know how to sense it.

I'm somewhat of a rationalist and I believe the most important things that should be taught to kids and teens while they are at school is thinking critically along with concentration(emptying your mind and being like water in Bruce Lee's words) and finally,giving them the facts of life,free of a final opinion,and letting them judge it.It sounds idealistic but I think this is what we should strive for(this is my opinion as of now,completely open to debate and modification),although I can't see how it's possible to try and bring something along these ideals in India where there are many different religions and religious views are given a lot of importance.

And one other of our similarities,along with our thoughts and interests(I checked your interests in your profile and they are similar to mine),is that I too would rather work on improving my skills and not marketing.Although I am a little lazy and can't utilize the free time I have as well as I should,a habit for which an aimless first fifteen years of my life are most probably at blame as my parents are hard working folk,in case laziness is hereditary.

J.G. Keely I don't feel like school was a waste for me--I tried to get as much out of it as I could--but it's true that it could have been much better. I sometimes wonder what I could be today if I had been in an institution that challenged me to the limit of my talents and intelligence.

It's very cool that you are a dancer, do let me know if you end up in the area. It actually reminds me of another story about people with skill and determination being screwed over. I read an article by a woman who is a hip-hop dancer, and who would often try out for tours and shows in NYC. The choreographer would always come up to her and say they were looking forward to working with her, but then, she wouldn't get the job.

Eventually she found out that the pop stars or directors were mostly disregarding the choreographer and picking people based on their look, even if they weren't great dancers. She was always losing out to people with dyed mohawks and tattoos, and people in the business were saying since she was a pretty white girl, she should try out to become a cheerleader, as if that was the same thing.

But I'm not trying to be a downer--there are a lot of ways to define success, and there are a lot of ways to find a satisfying life. I never thought I would end up working in theater, but I did, for a while.

I agree with what you say about teaching kids, though I would add that they also need to learn self-reliance, which means giving them challenges they have to complete on their own, starting with small things and working up to larger things. It's also important that these be things they might fail, so they learn how to deal with both success and failure in life. I know I didn't get a chance to be responsible for myself until college, and it was very difficult to learn it that late.

I'm not familiar with the particulars of religious life in India--what you say sounds interesting.

You mention laziness, and I also used to define myself this way, though in looking at psychological theory, I came to understand a different motivation for my procrastination: perfectionism. It's apparently common for perfectionists to procrastinate, because when they look at a task, they see something extremely large and complex to be done, and don't feel they have the time and energy to do it properly. So, instead of just doing a mediocre job, which would infuriate them, they avoid the task altogether. I often have to remind myself that any work towards a goal, no matter how small, is a good thing, and that completing something mediocre is better than not finishing anything at all.

Akash Makkar I think that's the difference,you tried.I sat on my couch and became a fat,lazy ass.Thank god puberty set in,made me notice girls and I started to think how to attract them.Then soon,the focus shifted from girls to personal growth.I think it's a little ironical that puberty which is dreaded by many parents actually helped me realize what I want in life.And have thought about the same thing sometimes,about an institution giving me a more challenging environment,although I am still somewhat satisfied.In a way,the incompetence of the education system was a challenge for me to overcome and I'm glad I did,not as soon as I would have wanted to,but I think still have a good long life ahead(my grandparents lived into their nineties),if no accidents happen.

As for looks being an issue in the dance industry,it is saddening.This is prevalent in both commercial and non commercial spheres,a friend of mine went to Argentina for a ballet workshop at the Colon theater and he met a very talented dancer there,with a good solid technique but short in height.He was thinking of quitting dance as a career option because he couldn't find any jobs.I read that even Baryshnikov didn't get primary roles in Russia because of his less than ideal height!

I'm with you again on self reliance,I'm yet to learn it.As far as failure is concerned,in India many students get low marks are often depressed because of that as the parents and teachers put a lot of emphasis on them,they don't need any more lessons in failure.I think what they need is,like you said,learning how to deal with it.I think depression would be seen only in rare cases if everyone is taught how to do that.It's easy to fall into a self depreciating mode,victimize yourself and blame everyone else for your failures.Emptying the mind of thoughts is very tough in these situations but works like a charm,cures insomnia too.

Another children's book I rate highly is Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett,it focuses exactly on these things,developing critical thinking and taking responsibility.I know you don't like Pratchett much,but according to me you read the books he wrote at the start of his career.I read Mort which is the fourth book he wrote and was terribly disappointed.Small Gods is my favorite and I would suggest that you give him another chance and read the two I mentioned.If you don't like these,I don't think you'll enjoy any other book of his and also,I would like to hear what you have say about them.Maybe you'll notice things I missed(I'm biased towards him,so it's probable that I chose to ignore the flaws).

Coming to acting,my dad does Hindi(my native language) theater,I've seen many plays and I didn't really like any of the actors.I just read An Actor's work by Stanislavsky,I really liked what he had to say and I think India needs someone like him to raise the bar and bring realism into acting.I read many blogs to get acquainted with the opinions of people outside of India and working in acting industry,there were a few who thought that his methods are now outdated and easier methods have been evolved.I would like to hear what you have to say.

Regarding laziness,this a new angle you have given me to look at things from,will keep this in mind next time I feel like procrastinating.

J.G. Keely ". . . a friend of mine went to Argentina for a ballet workshop at the Colon theater and he met a very talented dancer there,with a good solid technique but short in height."

Oh yeah, definitely. It's just sad the way the Balanchine type is still adhered to at so many schools and troupes.

"I know you don't like Pratchett much,but according to me you read the books he wrote at the start of his career."

It's true, and people have suggested I try other ones. I probably will, some day, we'll see how it goes. thanks for the suggestion.

"I just read An Actor's work by Stanislavsky,I really liked what he had to say . . ."

Ah, interesting. I am interested in realist and method forms, being a fan of Chekhov, but I am not well-versed in the theory or the specific schools of thought. As I said, I didn't expect to get a job in theater, I just fell into it. My background is mostly literary, and the acting I have done has been mostly extemporaneous and not really steeped in methodology and theory. I guess that's something else I should start studying.

Thanks for the comments, feel free to post more or message me if you have anything else on your mind.

Akash Makkar Nice,you're a man of many talents.Will look forward to your opinion if you do read some books on acting.

Thanks for your time,take care.

message 39: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Drat, Keely, I've already liked this review.

But you've had a few other comments sprout up.

Totally off-topic but related to Akash's comment up but one, aesthetics aside, it's rather awkward being an average-sized dancer en pointe with a shorter male partner. The guy can't provide any support for certain steps. That's why most of Lec Trocs dancers are short males, with a few tall guys who act as the partners.

Akash Makkar I agree with you, but being short has advantages too, a significant one being a sharper petite allegro. I understand the aesthetic limitations of companies too, they want the dancers in corps to look similar. I just feel disheartened when talent goes unappreciated, and that guy was not able to find any jobs. I haven't thought much on how this ideal body type issue in dancing can be resolved, but I hope it does get sorted out in the future.

Also, I am sure there are talented girls who didn't take dancing professionally as they were short in height, he would have been able to provide adequate support to them. Things in life are not ideal, but I feel we should always keep striving, only then can we grow and have some sort of fairness in this world.

Cassandra I'm sorry to hear that you haven't had much success in your work--goodness knows, based on what I've seen of your writing, you are much more deserving than most who manage to be published.
I thoroughly enjoyed your review. You express yourself very well, and with great insight, on a topic which is dear to my heart.
I hope you won't give up on your writing! You never know when your lucky break could come, and it would be a sad thing if you kept all you have to offer the reading world to yourself. :)

message 42: by Leajk (last edited Dec 06, 2012 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leajk Great review as usual! I absolutly agree on the importance of complex and layered children's litterature. There are few things that are as rewarding as when you return to your childhood favoruites and find new meaning and comfort in them, and few things as sad as when you find them dated and shallow.

There is one part I didn't quite get though: "A child must be taught not to fear monsters but to fear instead electrical outlets, pink slips, poor people, and lack of social acceptance. The former is frightening in and of itself, the latter for complex, internal reasons."

I'm guessing that you're being ironic and that it's part of the many adults persons' prejudices against 'poor people' (contrary to what you've learned in Dickens). But I didn't really the 'internal reasons'. If it was really obvious I'm blaming my rusty English, not my comprehension in general!

message 43: by J.G. Keely (last edited Dec 10, 2012 06:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.G. Keely Cassandra said: "I hope you won't give up on your writing!"

Thanks for the kind words, sorry I missed your comment earlier. I haven't given up, in fact I'm working on a novel right now, and hopefully I'll actually be able to finish it, at some point.

Leajk said: "I'm guessing that you're being ironic and that it's part of the many adults persons' prejudices against 'poor people' . . . I didn't really the 'internal reasons'."

Well, whether it's tattooed street toughs, the part of the city where you always lock your car doors, or grabbing a child's hand when you pass a beggar with a cardboard sign, I'd say almost every parent sends a message to their child about fearing the poor. As for 'internal reasons', I mean that looking at an electrical outlet or a pink slip, it's not obvious to a child that these are dangerous things which they need to avoid.

message 44: by Jocelyn (last edited Dec 09, 2012 07:48PM) (new)

Jocelyn Keely wrote: "and hopefully I'll actually be able to finish it, at some point"

When I was twelve I got it in me to try to write a book. Stupidly, I thought it would be easy, and looking back, I cannot comprehend what a complete and utter idiot I was when I thought that.

I think it's a pretty hard lesson to learn for a lot of first-time authors that it's easy to start writing a book, but difficult to finish it. There's something I like to call Shiny New Idea Syndrome, when you're in the middle of writing a story and suddenly you come up with a new idea, casting away the old one to start on the new. Or you simply tire out and want to move on.

You can have a terrific story idea, but in the end, it's the application of those ideas that really count. A good writer could spin a "bad" idea and make a good story out of it; I can't count how many books I originally expected to be boring, but was blown away by it nevertheless. An average writer could have a brilliant idea and write a mediocre story out of it. A lot of the truths one finds when writing a novel is completely contradictory to what anyone would expect. Whether or not that's good or bad, I don't know. :0

J.G. Keely Yeah, I remember Harlan Ellison saying something about how writing is a skill, like any other, and if you want to be a writer, you just sit down and write. You write whatever comes to mind, and after a hundred thousand words, you've probably had enough practice, so throw it all away and start again.

message 46: by Yolandi (new) - added it

Yolandi van der Merwe I want comment on the original review you posted. Some one once said that if an adult cannot be made to think or wonder about world issues that are presented in a children's book then it was never a children's book to begin with. Okay those aren't the exact word of the quote but it is what I understand under it. I'm also not sure who said it but I have a strong believe that it was the author of Narnia (CS Lewis ?????)

Cassandra Yolandi wrote: "Some one once said that if an adult cannot be made to think or wonder about world issues that are presented in a children's book then it was never a children's book to begin with."

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” ― C.S. Lewis

Is that the one you meant, Yolandi?

J.G. Keely There's also this one:

"“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”"

message 49: by Crystal (new) - added it

Crystal Keely, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Sometimes I wonder whether authors of children's literature write simply to take advantage of a certain section of our culture- one that is innocent and so easily led astray. Many of the children's books that are written in today's culture only seem intent on making money and creating a sensation, and not one based on quality. Our cultural obsession with quantity seems to be reaching its claws toward our children and we adults encourage it. Carroll wrote a children's novel with a quality that allows it's influence to reach even into our cynical world.

J.G. Keely Well, I'd say sensationalism and money-making in literature are hardly confined to YA--indeed, most YA readers I know are middle aged women. And yeah, capitalism is reaching towards children because parents want to give their children the best and the most, and that means it's a very profitable area.

Thanks for the comment.

« previous 1
back to top