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Julian Karswell
11-30-2009, 09:41 PM
Ever since my daughter could first hold a book, I have laboured under a heavy weight of responsibility. It doesn't matter what I read; I am a lost cause; but when it comes to others, especially innocent, clean-slated minds, what should one recommend by way of reading?

It doesn't matter if you are a parent, relative, friend, teacher or librarian, the dilemma is the same. Should you recommend what is educational, instructive and recreational.....or entertaining, subversive and cynical?

I was incredibly lucky growing up. My parents read minimistically and with the utmost prejudice. As a result, I had to seek out literary texts, and by serendipitous good fortune found myself consulting a librarian with a penchant for the gothic; a cello-playing English teacher who recommended post-war classics of English and American classics; and an astute bookshop owner who not only allowed me to snuggle up in a pew in his C18th bookshop to read old books during wet lunchtimes, but who taught me the sense of only buying that which I could sell on for more than I had paid.

Now the mantle has fallen to me. I have a fourteen year old daughter who was runner-up in a national literature competition last year, judged by childrens' authoress Jacqueline Wilson. In one bound she has leapt from the comfort zone of J K Rowling et al into the heady realms of Adult Literature. I myself was eased through this passage by James Herriott and Agatha Christie, authors who provide for voracious appetities by virtue of their output. Indeed, I put my love - my passion - for the cult film "Withnail & I" down to dozens of hours I spent reading Herriott's novels, and watching the TV show of the same name.

"We've come on holiday by mistake."

I also adore the film "Agatha" starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman which (for me) opened doors in terms of progressing from rational deduction to the opaque murkiness of psychological rationale. Redgrave has an air of tragic fatality perfectly suited to the part; Hoffman is - as ever - clever and adaptable.

[It may be political incorrect to say so, but I am a huge fan of "Straw Dogs", which I have long perceived as an unintentional realistic adaptation of Hodgson's "The House On The Borderland".]

But to return to adult dilemmas. My concern as a "responsible adult" has recently been tested by "Lord Of The Flies" and "Twilight". At school, my daughter's English class watched a film version of the Golding novel, and are now studying the text. Golding is a very intelligent writer - like John Wyndham, he is a supreme intellectual as well as a fine wordsmith - but for me, his best work is "The Spire", a novel of absolute perfection and economy, which describes the conflict between a repressed Dean and his heathen cathedral builders, which culminates in his turning a blind eye to murder in order to see His will done. But enough of that......with regards Ms Meyers and her phenomenally boring......erm, I mean "popular" 'Twilight' books, which have been aimed very cynically for the young female adolescent market, my daughter has, quite sensibly, asked me about the traditions of the vampire tale.

Now, how can any responsible adult teach, let alone guide, a young innocent mind into the history of the horror story - far less the vampire tradition - without alluding to the darker side of life? Nihilism, sexuality, evil, violence........it is a heavy burthen.

Reader, I have abbregated my responsibilities. I have given my daughter 'carte blanche' to read what she wants from my own collection, and brifely highlighted the key writers, such as Mary Shelley, John Polidori, Edgar Allen Poe, J S Le Fanu and Bram Stoker. The rest is up to her English teacher.

Of greater concern was Modern Classics. What should I recommend? I selected - perhaps rashly - a dozen volumes, ranging from Saki to Orwell, and Waugh to (Pat) Barker, etc etc. But which did she pick out first? What book first represents her Rites Of Passage into what I would call Adult Reading?

The Catcher in The Rye.

Within two days of giving her the book, she is half way through it.

I am now anxious; extremely anxious.

What books did you first read, and did they have a profound effect upon you?

JK

Julian Karswell
11-30-2009, 09:53 PM
Ever since my daughter could first hold a book, I have laboured under a heavy weight of responsibility. It doesn't matter what I read; I am a lost cause; but when it comes to others, especially innocent, clean-slated minds, what should one recommend by way of reading?

It doesn't matter if you are a parent, relative, friend, teacher or librarian, the dilemma is the same. Should you recommend what is educational, instructive and recreational.....or entertaining, subversive and cynical?

I was incredibly lucky growing up. My parents read minimistically and with the utmost prejudice. As a result, I had to seek out literary texts, and by serendipitous good fortune found myself consulting a librarian with a penchant for the gothic; a cello-playing English teacher who recommended post-war classics of English and American classics; and an astute bookshop owner who not only allowed me to snuggle up in a pew in his C18th bookshop to read old books during wet lunchtimes, but who taught me the sense of only buying that which I could sell on for more than I had paid.

Now the mantle has fallen to me. I have a fourteen year old daughter who was runner-up in a national literature competition last year, judged by childrens' authoress Jacqueline Wilson. In one bound she has leapt from the comfort zone of J K Rowling et al into the heady realms of Adult Literature. I myself was eased through this passage by James Herriott and Agatha Christie, authors who provide for voracious appetities by virtue of their output. Indeed, I put my love - my passion - for the cult film "Withnail & I" down to dozens of hours I spent reading Herriott's novels, and watching the TV show of the same name.

"We've come on holiday by mistake."

I also adore the film "Agatha" starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman which (for me) opened doors in terms of progressing from rational deduction to the opaque murkiness of psychological rationale. Redgrave has an air of tragic fatality perfectly suited to the part; Hoffman is - as ever - clever and adaptable.

[It may be political incorrect to say so, but I am a huge fan of "Straw Dogs", which I have long perceived as an unintentional realistic adaptation of Hodgson's "The House On The Borderland".]

But to return to adult dilemmas. My concern as a "responsible adult" has recently been tested by "Lord Of The Flies" and "Twilight". At school, my daughter's English class watched a film version of the Golding novel, and are now studying the text. Golding is a very intelligent writer - like John Wyndham, he is a supreme intellectual as well as a fine wordsmith - but for me, his best work is "The Spire", a novel of absolute perfection and economy, which describes the conflict between a repressed Dean and his heathen cathedral builders, which culminates in his turning a blind eye to murder in order to see His will done. But enough of that......with regards Ms Meyers and her phenomenally boring......erm, I mean "popular" 'Twilight' books, which have been aimed very cynically for the young female adolescent market, my daughter has, quite sensibly, asked me about the traditions of the vampire tale.

Now, how can any responsible adult teach, let alone guide, a young innocent mind into the history of the horror story - far less the vampire tradition - without alluding to the darker side of life? Nihilism, sexuality, evil, violence........it is a heavy burthen.

Reader, I have abbregated my responsibilities. I have given my daughter 'carte blanche' to read what she wants from my own collection, and brifely highlighted the key writers, such as Mary Shelley, John Polidori, Edgar Allen Poe, J S Le Fanu and Bram Stoker. The rest is up to her English teacher.

Of greater concern was Modern Classics. What should I recommend? I selected - perhaps rashly - a dozen volumes, ranging from Saki to Orwell, and Waugh to (Pat) Barker, etc etc. But which did she pick out first? What book first represents her Rites Of Passage into what I would call Adult Reading?

The Catcher in The Rye.

Within two days of giving her the book, she is half way through it.

I am now anxious; extremely anxious.

What books did you first read, and did they have a profound effect upon you?

JK

PS. Don't you know that god is pooh bear?

Mr. D.
12-01-2009, 06:23 PM
From my experience the limits of our responsibility is to get our children to read at all. Both of my children were readers and still are. Even as very young children their tastes were eclectic and well in advance of their biological age. They are now adults and they still read. And not just simple books. What more can anyone do?