Brought to you by the letter N

The end of N is in sight, in my alphabetical readings. I’m abandoning E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and just started Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. I’ve requested The Time-Traveler’s Wife on CD from the library, so I can listen to it when I run and walk at the track.

I feel bad about the Nesbit. She had a cool life and is one of the early giants of kidlit…but. The book is narrated by one of the children, and the whole time the author is sharing knowing winks with the audience. In the meantime, the kids are acting out tropes from the storybooks they know, in a tedious way that reminds me of the end of Huckleberry Finn. I don’t get who this stuff is for. Are actual children supposed to read this and understand all the things that the characters don’t, and laugh at them? Or are children supposed to read it innocently, on a level with the characters? I have this same problem with a lot of Milne. Do not get it.

Speak, Memory, on the other hand, is enchanting me. Nabokov’s childhood in pre-revolutionary Russia is so far from everything I know that it has that “everyday life long ago = fascinating” thing going on. And there’s something about the precise way he describes thought and emotional patterns that makes me feel like we know each other, like we’re sitting right next to each other. I’m only 20 pages in, but just got to the bit where he talks about his synesthesia and lists which letters in the English alphabet have which colors in his head. I want to do a color picture of his name, and perhaps below it the “word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow…in my private language the hardly prounounceable: kzspygv.”

Early plans for O: Flannery O’Connor and some of the Sharon Olds poetry I haven’t kept up with in recent years.

8 thoughts on “Brought to you by the letter N

  1. I never loved Nesbit, but it was juvenile fantasy, so I devoured it anyway. I could never really recall the stories afterward, though. When I last read Treasure Seekers in ’04, I was keeping a book journal, and I wrote: “A good deal of their charm comes from a contemporary depiction of life in another time and place – how childhood was different in England a hundred years ago, and how it was the same.” So, more “everyday life long ago = fascinating” made it moderately interesting for me, at least.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

    • I did like the food references and things like that– ran some of them past Stephen in case he knew them from his boyhood in England, but I guess a lot had changed between 1899 and the 1950s. Who knew. ;)

  2. I couldn’t stand Treasure Seekers; not as a child, not as an adult. (Treasure Island now, that’s a different story.) I’m right there with you. And if you’ve already been primed with that book, I understand that you’ll find it difficult to plow into Enchanted Castle. But put in the effort. Starts off slow, gets better. Parts of it are wonderful. Both creepy-horrific and dream-like magical. It’s that book that showed two generations of child fantasy writers what can be done.

  3. I hope the book Time Traveler’s Wife is better than the movie! Movie was a waste of two hours of my life.

    I agree with you about Milne!

    On a different subject – have you read Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl? I’m reading it now – really like it.

    • I read the Harriet Jacobs a couple of years ago. I liked it a lot, on the same “I can’t believe she hid like that for so long” level as Anne Frank’s diary.

    • I’m hoping it will be a good InDesign/PhotoShop project for the production term at the IPRC. :)

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