Ven ven at
Mon Jul 17 19:51:33 EDT 2000

Hi  Everyone,

I must admit i was addicted to problem novels for a while. it was 
mostly the American ones so I think there was an element of 
escapism in that their problems seemed so exotic. Like "Gee 
these kids are really poor and their dad's so mean that the eldest 
brother packs them all in his car and they run away together." And 
I'd think "How can they be poor, they have a car!"  When I was in 
sixth form most peope's Mums didn't have cars. I got over the pure 
and simplistic problem novel fairly quickly but I still like the kind 
where you have to guess what the problem is (a Whostartedit?).  
Nina Bawden does these very well in both adult and child versions.  
Writing this has made me wonder about the difference between the 
problem novel  and the novel that deals with problems. I think in my 
last post ion this subject I said something about internalising the 
values. The issues shouldn't drive the plot or the characters, they 
need to be intergrated. A good example of a YA book that does 
this is Jan Mark's "Man in Motion". The frame of the plot is Boy 
moves to a new home in the city with his Mum. His aim in this new 
life is to make friends and play sport. Being an amiable chap he's 
soon playing cricket,  American footabll and tennis with different 
lads but has yet to make a close friend. Meanwhile he's getting on 
well with their new lodger and his friends. The big difference 
between his old life and the new is that for the first time he's getting 
to know people from different ethnic backgrounds and that is the 
"issue" in the book. The hero ends up with a serious dilemma when 
it turns out that a boy he wants as a friend, his American football 
partner, has a racist father and he has to think about his own 
feelings, given that by this time he has got to know, and like, 
several of the people his friend's father deplores (actually he has a 
crush on lodger's beautiful black girlfriend). It ends satisfactorially, 
no easy answers on the racism issue but he realises that all along 
he had found someone who could be a good friend and who needs 
his friendship. I think the book succeeds because it is driven by the 
hero's search for new friends and his dilemma about racism is only 
one of a number of choices he faces.

Hallie wrote
>In Reading for the Love of It, Michele Landsberg offers this quote 
> Jill Paton Walsh:
>         Though I think it is possible to learn from works of fiction, I
> don't think it possible to teach from them...  One does not rush to give
> Anna Karenina to friends who are committing adultery.  Such impertinence is
> limited to dealings with children."

If I'd thought of this last year, when a good friend was being very 
silly I might have been tempted -- it would have annoyed him I'm 
sure. But what I really meant to write about is how this is the last 
thing you do. I read a novel about a woman who is so angered by 
her son in law's adultery (because it reminds her of her husband's) 
that she murders him so that he can't do it again and cause her 
daughter more pain. This was absolutely not something I wanted 
the friend with the adulterous partner to read -- she was upset 
enough already. I mean the way the author wrote about infidelity 
made me want to kill her partner.................  

> She also writes this about problem novels:
>         "For anyone who has experienced reading as one of life's most
> intense aesthetic pleasures, the very word "bibliotherapy" must sound
> thumpingly perverse.  The thinking behind it seems inexpressibly crude:
> Child is in pain from parents' divorce, give child a cheerful novel about
> divorce, child will feel better.  The child is not a questioning mind and
> seeking heart but a patient.  The book is a commodity, like a patent drug."
How true.


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