Friday, September 21, 2012

The Invisible Child by Katherine Paterson

The Invisible Child (subtitled "On Reading and Writing Books For Children") is a collection of speeches and essays written by Katherine Patterson over the course of her career.  I have mixed feelings about some of her books, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one; I was particularly impressed with how integral her faith is to her writing.  All her books are ultimately about characters who are homesick for Eden.

Some choice quotes:

On good writing: I suppose it would be possible to write a book whose plot jumped all around like a frog on pep pills, but that's not what books are about.  If that's the kind of writing you want to do, I think you should be in a more hectic medium.  Books are meant to be read slowly and digested.  These days people don't pray much or go to services of worship, they don't commune with nature - why, they hardly go to a national park without a TV set, a laptop, and a cell phone.  The book is almost the last refuge of reflection - the final outpost of wisdom.  I want children to have the gifts that books can give, and I don't believe they can get them from a book that attempts to imitate the frantic fragmentation of contemporary life. (p. 55)

On dark themes in children's books: There was no way my parents could have protected me from the world as it is.  I had already seen too much.  What I needed was not an outer guard but an inner strength.  I needed to know that one could endure the loss of Paradise.  "That's what we were put on earth to do," says Margaret Drabble, "to endeavor to face the impossible." This is what reading The Yearling helped me to do - to endeavor to face the impossible. (p. 177)

On classics:  I was always told that I should read the Odyssey.  It popped up in small doses in English and Latin textbooks as I was growing up.  But somehow I never got around to the whole thing until I was forty-six years old. . . . Do you know why the Odyssey has lasted for nearly three thousand years?  Because it is simply a marvelous story.  Why did people keep telling me that I ought to read it so I could be an educated person?  Was it because they had never read it themselves, but had always meant to?  I can't imagine anyone who had ever read it, certainly not Rouse's translation, anyone who had ever really read it, telling someone else to read it because it was good for him.  Read it because it's one of the best stories you'll ever read. . . . (from a 1979 lecture on "Words")

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