There was a discussion last year about how some of us are “book champions” and others are “book critics.” The implied conceit is that somehow, these two roles or temperaments are mutually exclusive. A great summary with her views and links was published on Monica Edinger’s “Educating Alice” blog: The Championship Season.
After much self-examination, I know that, I too, would like to maintain both traits – not as if they’re the two ends on a continuum: if I move toward one end, I’m leaving the other end behind. I’d rather imagine them as baking ingredients which must work together well with just the right amount of each. I hold that it is imperative to examine all aspects of any book I encounter and critically evaluate them: pointing out what works really well and what has perhaps fallen short when engaging in discussion of a book: whether in person with a friend, online on a blog, in print for a magazine, or as a member of an award selection committee. However, it is equally important to have a lot of passion and love and express such support vocally and often, especially when working with the target readership. I often joke with my students that I’m just a paid book pusher: starry-eyed and eager when recommending titles. I will never shy away from praising a good book and champion for great themes, outstanding literary styles, convincing world-building, and layered character development.
That’s why I point out inaccurate racial representations; that’s why I discuss whether the use of certain narrative devices supports the plot or the theme; that’s why I talk and write about books I’m crazy in love with but also about books that raise questions and concerns. I’m not going to choose between the two:
I consider myself a Critical Book Champion!
Walking down Seattle night streets, I came upon these trees adorned with Christmas lights. My aesthetic mind created an instant division: I loved the moving lights up in the branches and had next to no emotional reaction to the static lights on the tree trunks. What made the moving lights so much more appealing?
Could it be that each absence of light makes the presence of it more vibrant, more intense.
Could this same revelation be applied to my reading aesthetics?
Is this why I find books filled with figurative language page after page less appealing than books that only feature effective and well developed figurative language when absolutely necessary?
Like the static lights on the tree trunks, the too frequent presence of metaphors, similes, and analogies reduces my appreciation of an author’s artistry. I need the appropriate absence of figurative speeches to fully feel the impact of their presence.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones’ portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being “presumed” in not-so-flattering ways.
Since my taste runs more toward more saturated kind of fantasy, I wanted the chickens’ powers (and they are amazing powers) to manifest more, stronger, and add more tension to the story. However, I can also see how this can be quite attractive to those who just want their magic to be more like everyday happenings — not too many world-altering encounters.
My narrative device-detector antenna was definitely alert for this one and wish that the letter-writing device had worked all the way through. The really really long, as-it-happens, climatic sections did not work all that well for me: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes in the middle of rescuing the chickens and participating in the Poultry Show (and it is apparent that those letters weren’t written after all the excitement as a report, since Agnes would have known all that had happened and wouldn’t have needed such narration of events.)