Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do we have a "literary age"?

  I think, in my literary heart, I am somewhere between eight and twelve years old.

     My friend Marlena once told me that, as a child, she found teenagers and teen-dom terribly exciting and awesome. She began reading teen/YA fiction (only the good stuff. . . she has impeccable literary taste) probably as soon as her librarian would let her, and today aspires to write fiction for high school students, although she kind of hated high school herself. I've had the pleasure of reading selections from some of her works-in-progress, and for someone so  mature, she really gets teenagers. I mean, it helps that she's fresh out of high school, but still. Another friend, Hayley, once blogged about how she thinks we all have permanent "Soulages". I still think there's a danger in convincing ourselves that we're "stuck" at a certain spiritual or cognitive age--it's the perfect excuse for failure to mature--but my Amazon wish list suggests that Hayley and Marlena have a point. Even at twenty years old, I find myself gravitating toward the shelves of middle-grade readers at the library. Apart from the fact that I love typical middle-grade plot devices (magic, mysteries, well-done humor, nerdy kids) I'm sure there's also more than a touch of nostalgia involved. most of my favorite childhood memories involve reading and rereading my favorite books in an endless loop on the swing in our backyard, while my mom begged me to try something new. Eventually, I'd concede, fall in love with a new set of books, and repeat the process.
    I enjoy many novels "for adults", of course, but I find most contemporary fiction falls into one of two categories: two-dimensional commercial novels, or sentimental and/or political novels with in-your-face social messages. There's nothing wrong with either of these types of book, of course, but it's rare to find a well-written, well-developed adult novel with a great, fun-to-read story, and all that "English-y" stuff to pick apart. They exist, but continue to be outnumbered by sheer number of smart, funny, well-written YA and middle-grade novels in the publishing marketplace right now.

Do you believe in "literary ages"? If so, what's yours?
   In other news, I'm going to make every effort to participate in BEDA (Blog Every Day August) along with some fellow nerdfighting bloggers, just to learn to work up the nerve to hit the "publish post" button more often. If you're participating, let me know in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. What a captivating question! I guess that I do believe in literary ages, since what people like to read tells me something important about where they are in life and what kind of person they are like. Admittedly, I'm with you in the eight-thirteen range with a few older-age books thrown in now and again (like Jane Eyre, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and The Fountainhead....). I still re-read my favorite books from when I was a kid (with A Wrinkle in Time being high on my list with 32 annual summer re-reads). Thoreau (in Walden) is right on with the importance of retaining a sense of perpetual youth for staying true to oneself.

    Here are some of my YA favorites:

    A Wrinkle in Time (and the rest of that series)
    All Trixie Belden mystery novels
    Little Women
    Cranberry Thanksgiving (okay, this one's for 6-8 year olds, but it's still charming and I still believe in its message)
    The Rascals from Haskell's Gym (I was a gymnast)
    Caddie Woodlawn
    Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh
    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    Charlotte's Web

    And now I have to add the seven Harry Potter novels :o)