Packed house at the mill valley library youth poetry slam #slam #poetry #competition #millvalleypubliclibrary #millvalley (at Mill Valley Public Library)
Getting ready for that slam poetry competition this friday! We already have 260 people registered to come. Don’t miss out! Register at www.millvalleylibrary.org
Dispatchwork, Lego street art around the world by Jan Vormann.
If I’m doing my job, my work stands up to DFW and Franzen and Egan no matter where it gets stocked in bookstores. But frankly, I’ll never be as purely gifted as those writers. There are, however, YA writers who are among the world’s best living novelists: M. T. Anderson and Markus Zusak, for instance.
I don’t really think novels for adults have inherently different themes from YA novels (like, Egan’s Good Squad is functionally a kind of coming-of-age story, albeit not one about teenagers. And David Foster Wallace is certainly very popular with teenagers).
I like publishing the way I publish partly because it reminds me that books are supposed to do something other than just prove to the reader that the author is intelligent. (I don’t think that criticism applies to DFW or Franzen or Egan, but too much literary fiction is merely clever.) I’m very prone to that kind of self-indulgence, and honestly it is only when I am writing for teenagers that I feel like I am doing work that is useful.
And that’s very important to me: Writing novels takes a long time, and it’s completely impossible for me to do it unless I feel like the thing I’m working on is going to be helpful to people.
Maybe to my discredit as a writer, I like to make stuff that is useful more than I like to make stuff that is beautiful.* In short, I write because I share DFW’s belief that books can actually make human life better. For me, at least for the conceivable future, that means writing YA novels.**
And I don’t feel like you’re taking the easy way out if you read my books. There’s plenty of room for both Franzen and me. Reading isn’t an easy way out. Watching NCIS is an easy way out.
* although of course books are seldom useful unless they are also beautiful.
** I mean, of course I am not saying that adult fiction is not helpful: DFW’s work, for instance, is extremely helpful to me on a literally daily basis. I just mean that I personally feel most useful, as a writer, when writing books about teenagers. And readers, at least thus far, seem to agree.
I hope I can be clear about this, but my thoughts all day have been a bit muddled, so I apologize if I express myself poorly or come off as defensive or anything.
1. There are deeply problematic relationship dynamics glorified in Twilight.
2. Criticizing misogyny in art is good and important.
3. My concern is that popular work by women receives far more vitriolic criticism from the public (like, in terms of number of demeaning jokes made by Jay Leno*) than popular work created by men.
4. So I think we’re talking about two different kinds of criticism: The totally legitimate criticism we see in literary journals and feminist web sites about misogyny, and the demeaning and dismissive this-sucks-because-teen-girls-like-it-and-everyone-knows-that-teen-girls-are-not-fully-human criticism we see in popular culture.
5. Also, I would like to see equal attention given to the sexism in popular work by men, from Nicholas Sparks to for instance J. D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye—although I like it very much—is profoundly and disturbingly misogynistic and yet seems to get a critical pass both online and off. This happens a lot, I think, with books by men, and I don’t want male writers (including me!) to get that pass.
6. I might be wrong about any/all of this. I’m wrong a lot, and always trying to learn.
*EDIT: Apparently Jay Leno has retired. You learn something new every day.
Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory) picks her top 13 YA books for talking to teens about tough stuff.
- Mexican White Boy - Matt de la Peña
- Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
- Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
- Please Ignore Vera Dietz - A. S. King
- Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- Beneath a Meth Moon - Jacqueline Woodson
- American-Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang
- The Rules of Survival - Nancy Werlin
- The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
- Bronxwood - Coe Booth
- Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
- Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
- The Piper’s Son - Melina Marchetta
If LHA thinks these are the best, I must read them all (or the 4 I haven’t read yet)
Dear Santa, next year I would like to stink like Justin Bieber in this ridiculously ugly box #belieber
Good morning/just kidding, going back to bed. This is how I feel every day. #chihuahuas #dogs #sally