Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Being Taken Places

Oh, how books do take us places. After reading Francine Prose's Goldengrove last week, I absolutely had to watch the movie Vertigo. Which wasn't a particularly good or convincing film all around, but there was something about it, how it came by its filmishness absolutely brilliantly, and was so thrilling to watch. How the movie and Prose's novel informed one another; I absolutely loved it.

And then I finished reading Owen Meany, which became far less plodding halfway through. And yes, I understand that some of the plodding was a narrative device, but I think some of it could have been fixed by an editor. Still, I remembered why I'd loved it, which had been the very point.

Then onward to The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh, the sequel to Harriet the Spy. And I'll say this-- I think Louise Fitzhugh is one of the best writers I've ever read, ever. Out of children's lit. and lit. the world over. I loved The Long Secret when I was young, and I could see why upon rereading-- I was just as baffled and fascinated as I would have been the first time around, and not every kids book reread can do that twice. In both of her books I've read, Fitzhugh captures the awfulness and inexplicableness that is real life in a way I can only compare to Grace Paley (class differences of their characters aside, of course). In no way watered down at all, Fitzhugh renders that reality palatable for children, which is truly amazing. This is the kind of literature children deserve...

And how strange here to see the number of parallels between The Long Secret and A Prayer for Owen Meany-- religious fanaticism, grandmothers, bad parenting, coming of age, summertimes etc. etc.-- which would have gone unnoticed had I been reading in any other direction.