Saturday, March 12, 2016

Morphosis: John Green: the Antecession of Adolescence

A post by my old Valve buddy, Adam Roberts:
Morphosis: John Green: the Antecession of Adolescence: There are only a few more weeks to run of the Children's Literature course that has prompted most of the recent, longer posts on thi...
It seems he's been teaching a course on children's lit, of which I can only approve (cf. my old post on Kiddie Lit). Here's an early paragraph:
It does seem to me that YA writing has latterly achieved a mode of cultural dominance: that Potter, Katniss and the MCU bestride our contemporary cultural production like colossi; that Malorie Blackman and Patrick Ness are more important contemporary UK novelists than Martin Amis and Zadie Smith. But my own bias is towards SF/Fantasy, so perhaps I overestimate the centrality of Fantasy to the contemporary YA phenomenon. I'm not sure I do, but it's possible. It's one thing to talk about Rowling, Collins, Meyers, Blackman, Ness and Pullman (and Lemony Snicket, and Philip Reeve, and Eoin Colfer, and Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, and Jonathan Stroud, and Tom Pollock, and Rick Riordan, and Cassandra Clare ... and on and on the list goes) as representing some important culture movement.

But I have to concede that not all today's YA is fantastika. Or put it another way: if my argument is that the key YA texts are all Fantasy, then how do I account for those commercially huge, culturally major YA writers who don't write Fantasy? Two names in particular leap out: the marvelous Jacqueline Wilson, and the mega-selling John Green. Both work in what we could loosely call 'realist' idioms, writing about children and teenagers. Both are very good. What about them?

Take Green. Now, I like Green a great deal: he has a funny, personable and informative online presence as *clears throat* a vlogger, and he writes intelligent, witty and prodigiously successful novels. If those novels don't move me the way they evidently move millions of younger readers, that merely reflects my age. They're not aimed at people like me. Or it would be truer to say: they're not primarily aimed at people like me. And, to speak for myself, I admire and enjoy the charm with which he writes, the cleverly packaged wisdom, the lightness of touch he brings to serious matters.
And off we go to a review & essay.

What interests me is that assertion up there in the first sentence, "YA writing has latterly achieved a mode of cultural dominance..." Is that true? I don't know, but I find it a plausible assertion on the face of it.

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