le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

new books, old books

I'm excited that Forever Rose is out. I'm patiently waiting to purchase my copy for reasons which I decline to go into here (they have to do with a new job, and potential discounts). In honor of Forever Rose, I re-read Caddy Ever After, which I found semi-disappointing after the first three Casson family books. The first-person narration puts me off. But on the re-read, I dealt with it okay. I still found it lacking; I especially don't like Rose's first-person narration, but I'll live with it.

The second volume of Octavian Nothing is due out on 14 October. Again - new job, discounts, and I'm excited. I really, really like The Pox Party, and I'm keen to read the next installment. Judith Plotz gave a phenomenal talk about the book, and Rousseau, at the 2007 ChLA conference, and I get all intellectually wound up when I think about it. That excitement carries into reading the book, of course, and so I'm anticipating the second book quite, quite eagerly.

I happened to be in a bookstore over the weekend, and as always, I checked out the children's/YA sections. And was floored to see a stand-alone cardboard display featuring Ellen Emerson White's novel The President's Daughter.
Reasons I was floored:
1) I read The President's Daughter when I was probably 11 or 12, so early 90s. I got it from the library used book sale. I always liked it a lot as a young reader, and when I re-read it sometime within 2008, I was happy at how well it held up. But I always assumed it was out of print, or something - it's from 1985, semi-topical, and though a really terrific read, not the kind of book that libraries are scrambling to stock NOW.
2) There's a SERIES. There are FOUR titles! FOUR! poking around online, I see that they were brought back in print in 2008 (election tie-in, hurray!). I'm skeptical about the quality, since they sound pretty freaking melodramatic, but White's writing in The President's Daughter is tight and witty and highly, highly enjoyable. I'm scheming now to get my hands on all three subsequent books, and cannot WAIT to read them.

I felt a bit sad, actually, realizing that White's premise - the teenage daughter of the first woman elected President - will be fiction for - well, probably quite some years. And recalling the scenes when Meg, the eponymous heroine, attends a NOW speech given by her mother, and sees how overwhelmed with happiness - joy/tears - that a woman is President - reading that as a younger reader, I never quite got it. But having seen Senator Clinton's campaign - and worse, or more - seen the hideous way the media has responded to the selection of Governor Palin as VP candidate - then, I understood why a group of feminists would cry with happiness at the election of one of their own (Meg's mother is quite clearly a liberal and feminist).

on the Old Books front: I dipped into Stephen King! re-read "The Langoliers" and "Umney's Last Case," which lead me to a very tattery copy of a Raymond Chandler book of short stories, which I've been reading rather delightedly this evening.

I've been struggling, a lot, in the last couple of weeks, with balancing my teaching with my politics. Teaching is activism, in my book, and normally I have no problems making that happen, but I feel like I'm not doing ENOUGH. I want to sit down with my class and read articles from the Times and the Post and wherever else media happens. I want to talk, at length, about what the hell is REALLY going on. I want to make feminism a real, meaningful, necessary force in the world, not just a weird group of man-hating lesbian bra-burning feminazis, which, alas, is what my group this summer believed feminists were. even my smart, liberal students had been tricked by this heinous Limbaughesque rhetoric.
I love children's literature for a lot of reasons, but a big one is because every issue that's important to me politically surfaces (as it does in most texts), and because - more for my students than for myself - these texts are formative for children's personal beliefs. I care about that, surely, but I'm more interested in shattering the beliefs of my students, or at least making them examine their own beliefs. But I'm feeling limited by rollicking adventure stories, by the choices I made for my syllabus.

2 comments:

guru baba said...
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Beth said...

The Ellen Emerson White books are fabulous!! I loved all three of them, and had to buy most of them used from Amazon. I didn't know there was a fourth one, I'm so excited.