September 04, 2008

The Return of Holden Caulfield!

We have mixed feelings about The Catcher in the Rye here at FW, but regardless of how you feel about young Mr. Caulfield, it's interesting to hear that he's a character who still sparks debate in high school English classrooms. Not so much for younger students, though; and in fact, as one high school English teacher put it in the Washington Post, it's the selection of books that students at particular ages can't relate to that is contributing to the decline of interest in great works of literature (and reading in general) in high-school-aged students. Teaching students to analyze books to death rather than enjoy the words on the page, the images in one's head, can also be a problem.

It's probably why I have Dickens-o-phobia--reading Great Expectations in 9th-grade Honors English may have been required and I may have survived it, but it did not instill in me a lifelong appreciation for Victorian literature. In fact, I thought Pip was a wiener. But I'm still reading A Tale of Two Cities...and you know what? This may sound strange, but I almost couldn't stop laughing the entire first page. There is a very wry, very dry, sardonic sense of humor to this piece, disguised a bit by the long, flowing sentences, the forest of clauses and commas and semicolons. Dickens also seems to be very critical--perhaps satirical--of his characters, who in many ways appear to be character types--the seedy messenger, the coachman with the itchy trigger finger and the almost John-Wayne-like "I don't like your attitude" -attitude, the shifty-eyed coach passenger with the mysterious message. More on Dickens tomorrow.

Just a quick bit of bookish news to end the post with--John Bemelmans Marciano, the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of the Madeline children's books, will be releasing the first Madeline book in 50 years, Madeline and the Cats of Rome. I remember being almost scared by one of the Madeline books as a kid, though I adored them. I remember that Miss Clavel, specifically, kind of freaked me out. In the pictures, she was this sort of wispy floating nun-like ghost-woman. When Madeline wakes up in the middle of the night and freaks out, Miss Clavel comes lurching in at an alarming angle. Anyway, Madeline fans, take note--the book comes out this month.


tanita✿davis said...

YES. That's the main reason why the Madeleine books scared me -- those SHADOWY adults. All those nuns. All those tiny lockstep Stepford orphans. Yikes.

But, an enchanting sort of yikes, right?

Saints and Spinners said...

This summer, my daughter went to a little French daycamp down the street from us. The first day we went to pick her up, she did not want to go home-- she wanted to stay there and go to boarding school like Madeline and ilk. I'll be curious to see the new Madeleine book when it comes out. Madeleine in America was quite amusing-- it was from that book that my daughter started referring to her clothes as "duds" for awhile.