Friday, March 30, 2012

In Defense of the Kidult

As a writer of MG fiction, I tend to read a lot of children's books.  Sure, I need to know what my competition is up to, but I also genuinely like the stories.  But, then again, I'm a big kid.  I still laugh when a fart breaks the silence, burping contests around the dinner table are always welcomed at my home, and, well, life is generally more appealing when it isn't clipped, stripped, and proper all the time.

So when I read  Adults Should Read Adult Books, it touched a nerve.  I'm not sure if the article was meant as satire, or if the writer actually believes children books have no place in the adult read-o'-sphere--I suppose I could look the guy up and read some of his other stuff, maybe get a better sense of his style, but really, I'm investing more than enough time on this one already.  I do believe, however, that the message he conveys is harmful, so I'd like to examine it a bit closer.
The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads. 
Did you really compare children's literature to porn?  And if that wasn't enough, you figured you'd call a few hundred million readers idiots?  So what was the plan, exactly? Get yourself a nice little platform like The New York Times, and then blast their entire audience in one fell swoop?  Brilliant!
I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing.
Yes, they are pretty well written.  That tends to happen when professional authors write books, even for children.  Horton doesn't have the depth of language and character, I'll agree, but most adults don't read Dr. Seuss to further their education; they read it for their kids or their students. Not even sure where you're going with this.  How did we arrive at Dr. Seuss from Harry Potter, et al, in the first place?  Why not go back to your original porn metaphor?  You were doing so well there.
I appreciate that adults occasionally watch Pixar movies or play video games. That’s fine. Those media don’t require much of your brains. Books are one of our few chances to learn. There’s a reason my teachers didn’t assign me to go home and play three hours of Donkey Kong.
Metaphor #3: Children's books are like Donkey Kong.  In all these great adult books you've read, have you not learned it's poor form to mix metaphors?  Believe it or not, some people do read for pleasure.  For whatever reason, story is an important component of fiction.  Still, there's a learning process going on, even if the message doesn't contain complex adult situation with adults doing miraculous adult-ish type things.  When you do not explore all that literature has to offer; when you decide that one genre, or one style, or one age group is the only one worth reading; that's when you stop learning.
 I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults. 
Wait, what?  You don't even know a single thing about the books you're bashing adults for reading?
Let’s have the decency to let tween girls have their own little world of vampires and child wizards and games you play when hungry. Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs and get engaged at Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Because it’s embarrassing. You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight. If my parents had read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” at the same time as I did, I would have looked into boarding school. 
What was this written in the 80s?  Who the hell drives a Saab these days?  But more to the point, the stories you've mentioned are cultural phenomenons.  Those things tend to get discussed, even if the arguments are sometimes ridiculous.  Then again, show me a conversation on politics, the economy, or any other adult-type topic that doesn't also dip its toes into the stupid pool, at some point.

And as for your comment regarding what you read vs. your parents, all I can say is, Looks like someone wasn't hugged enough as a child.

I'm right now reading MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs.  I like it good and am reading it out in open and am managing to get through bigger words like "extraordinary" and  "infraction" without moving my mouth too a lot.  The book has pictures, too! So when my brain get tired I can stare at them till I can think again.


Wow, what an idiot. This guys want to be taken so seriously as an "adult", that he bashes children's literature for not being deep and complex masterpieces of writing. Not every book has to be a deep complex experience. Sometimes it's enough if the book is just entertaining and a fun read. Sounds like he's been at art school too long.

Good observations. Thanks for sharing.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More