Posts Tagged: Ellen Raskin

Rereading The Westing Game

Continuing with my 1970s reread jag, I spent most of my day off this week with The Westing Game. Spoilers ahead.

  • I admire intricate plots and puzzles… and I’m not very good at them. There’s a reason I keep reading Howl’s Moving Castle over and over. This was the first time through Westing Game that I felt like I got almost all of what was going on. That Crow was seeing Angela and Theo as another iteration of her daughter and Theo’s father. That Otis Amber was listed in the phone book as a PI under his own name.
  • Sam Westing is a despicable man. He executes the game to punish Crow, using her as a sacrificial queen in his search for someone smart enough to be his heir– Turtle, as it turns out. He has monitored his ex-wife for years and years via private investigator, and is fine with her wrongful arrest for homicide. Not cool. Never addressed. Sorry, Chris, Mr. Westing was not a good man.
  • Crow’s hair is red-blonde. I always pictured her with black hair, very goth and severe with her white skin. Probably because of her name.
  • The last chapter made me laugh. Doug Hoo has to be an Olympic medalist! Judge Ford has to get to the U.S. Supreme Court! Turtle has to make millions and millions! Somewhat more disturbingly, she marries Theo just like Violet should have married Theo’s father. Such a relief that someone (Chris) gets a partner who wasn’t involved in the game at all.
  • I think the book’s most egregious fault is its treatment of Mrs. Hoo. Raskin reports her thoughts and opinions as though they are as simple as the English she has only recently started to learn. The effect is sooo racist.
  • The $10,000 that each player received would be just over $38,000 in 2016 dollars. Harvard and Radcliffe charged $1,250 per year for undergraduate tuition in 1958, so maybe $10k is realistic for Judge Ford’s education, especially if it’s not adjusted for inflation between her student years and the book’s setting (assuming it’s more or less contemporary with the 1978 publication date).

Lots of cool stuff about the manuscript, process, and design of the book here. I first read a hardback library book, but now I have an Avon-Camelot paperback and so miss out on some of the design details.

Opaque and Transparent

Authors whose books I admire greatly but have to read over and over again because I never quite get a complete understanding of them:

Ellen Raskin
E.L. Konigsburg
Diana Wynne Jones
Henry James

Authors whose books I read over and over because they are transparent to me and show me myself (they feel too close to me to say I admire them greatly…though of course I do):

Beverly Cleary
Jean Little
Daniel Pinkwater
Lois Lowry
Jane Langton

ETA: when I typed tags for this entry, all the authors on the opaque list were already in my tags. Only DMP from the second list was already there. I guess there is a trying-to-understand motive when I blog about books? (unless it’s a showing-off motive.)

Ellen Raskin in the air

I haven’t actually seen the reissued editions of Ellen Raskin’s three novels that aren’t The Westing Game, but I guess the announcement’s been floating around me in the kidlitosphere. Something, anyway, led me to this foreword to the 2004 anniversary edition of The Westing Game. It’s written by Raskin’s editor and friend, Ann Durell.

I love that they met in a smoking car.

I love that Raskin practiced for her reading of The Westing Game, the part where Theo sings– by singing herself, on the subway, because it was a tougher audience than a reading. (Don’t you wish Raskin could have met Lynda Barry? Who started off her talk in Portland a few months ago by singing, so that talking wouldn’t make her nervous by comparison? Those two would have hit it off, and with Louise Fitzhugh along they could have taken over the world.)

But mostly what stuck in my head from the introduction was this:

She said, with her usual candor, that she didn’t know what children’s books were like. She read only adult ones. But I never even tried to edit her “for children.” She was too wise, too funny, too ingenious–and therefore unique–to tamper with in that way. She said that she wrote for the child in herself, but for once I think she was wrong. I think she wrote for the adult in children.

I am grateful for that. I think I had a lot of adult in me when I was a child.

So. The reprint rights for the three novels were bought along with a “nearly complete” posthumous book called A Murder for Macaroni and Cheese, which is listed for release in May. And, and and and, “The Westing Quest, a sequel to The Westing Game.” (No “nearly completed” attached to that, I notice.) But this news is from 2007. Is there…? Will there…? Or…?

Probably not. Right? I try not to think about it. Because it could end up like waiting for the fourth Star Wars movie.