October 2015 Comments/Reviews/Thoughts
Nov 11, 2015Posted by on
While seeking to complete the phrase, When I became a man I put away childish things, I was pleasantly surprised to find a C. S. Lewis attribution. In his essay On Three Ways of Writing for Children it’s paraphrased by C. S. Lewis to, When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. A trait that has become more pronounced in my dotage.
Occasionally I buy children’s books and in reading them realise just how difficult it is for an adult to write a child’s book, especially those in what is now popularly known as youth/adult (Y/A) literature. I giggle with my grandson over the escapades of Nigel Molesworth but of course they are written by an adult essentially for adults and I doubt very much if my grandson would ever hear of Nigel Molesworth if I didn’t have a copy of The Compleet Molesworth. It seems to me that writing a child’s book is rather like a pantomime where the character’s actions have in mind an audience of children but the double entendres of the script have in mind the adult audience. However, in writing for a youth/adult readership I would think that any resort to the use of a double entendre needs very careful handling although allusions and metaphors may be quite purposely aimed at a more adult readership.
As a minor fan of C. S. Lewis I have never thought that he ‘wrote down’ for children but rather aimed at a children’s readership that did not preclude that of adults — perhaps the antithesis of books in the Molesworth genre. I still find that books for children are still a pleasure to read, particularly, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind In The Willows, Winnie The Pooh and with more on the bookshelves waiting to be read.
A pdf version of the essay: On Three Ways Of Writing For Children by C. S. Lewis
The following are my comments/reviews/thoughts on this month’s stories — presented in the order that were submitted:
- The Circle Of Trust by Angie — Was Oksana bought by the circus? Did Cosmin rescue her and in what way? As ‘trust’ was the theme of this story and the coming trapeze act was critical here I expected a brief prelude (an intimate exchange other than that in the ring) between Oksana and Cosmin, a confirmation of the trust she now felt before her dangerous ascent to the big top. Something enabling me to confidently infer that this was their first public performance of their trapeze act. Still: A delightful story where the atmosphere of a circus ring is captured so well (the film Trapeze has just come to mind).
- The Carnival  by American Mum — A really nice story AM and although a short one I thought that it painted a good picture of Jimmy and his finding his niche in a kinder family at the carnival. I would have liked to read more about Jimmy, his mother, his relationship with his father (there’s no indication that father ever beat Jimmy) and particularly Jimmy’s relationship with Mrs. Kunkle and I also hope that Jimmy and the girl at the concession wagon may become another story.
- Harry And The Ferris Wheel by Peter — A mix of true events and fictional happenings!
- The Outing by Fizz — I really enjoyed reading this story and thought it was amusing with an especially funny ending. Was it the intention to make St Drogo the source of a series (e.g explaining the origins of St. Drogo and Barnaby Slack. The mention of Judith Kingsley and Seth Bryant setting the scene for Lucy and her good intentions)? I assume there to be multiple protagonists, like Lucy, St Drogo’s residents plus the gardner Ted and concluded that in this story the central protagonist was Ethel in a sequence taken out of a storyline about incidents involving St. Drogo.
- A Night At The Circus by Colmore — There was something different about this story (at least to me) that made this story a more difficult read than the previous ones. It was a good story, it flowed from event to event and was creative. The car accident mystery was, I think, an unnecessary complication to a good storyline, one which implied additional supernatural forces but gave no explanation, although the connections with death and the circus was clear enough. The story is very descriptive and atmospheric, I especially liked the notion of connecting Molly to Jim’s rescue and the ghoulish appearance of the circus performers and its audience.
- Stonehenge Revisited by Capucin — The conclusion cemented the connection to this months theme and was a neat ending to an interesting story hypothesising a circus connection with Stonehenge. I enjoyed the story but had to wonder where it was going. I had to keep re-reading it to fit the parts of a complex story together where I really did miss the significance of Adrian’s book. I now wonder if I would have approached the story differently if the last paragraph had come first and set the scene for me. However, the clue to what was — for me — its success, was that I didn’t mind reading it again — and again.
- Fairground Attraction by Lostinwords — I didn’t like the format used to presented the story in (especially the use of italics to separate conversations, albeit a narrative — but still conversation). Despite that, I thought that the narrative concept was good. A creatively contrived story interwoven with a very descriptive portrayal of fairground attractions and the angst of being a teenager in a group (especially one lacking in confidence). Hm! Tight sweaters, short skirts and boots — I’m desperately trying to remember them.
- Jazz McCool: Teen Detective by Chester — I’m left wondering if Jazz sabotaged the Wondrous Wozniaks’s act and suspicious that she did as she anticipated the debacle. The ‘Thwonk’ of the tennis ball was a clever touch. Making assumptions about the period the story is set in —based on Chuck saying adios Casablanca and a chimp being used as projectile — I wonder what Jazz and Chuck are doing now?
- The Plastic Person — An interesting storyline that on reading a number of times presented me with some problems. The descriptive elements jar every time, I thought that they were overdone often seeming inappropriate in their context. But the denouoment gave me the biggest problem: Did the display suddenly appear? Is the prisoner exchange based on who inserts the third coin and under what circumstances? Are we to assume that the unforgettable thing she saw was her own captivity? Nevertheless, a really creepy Halloween storyline.
- Circus  by Seadams — A cleverly contrived connection between the thoughts of a young boy and his grandfather’s death. I’m not keen on the diary format which a few words could replace. I initially missed the significance of Sir Roger and wondered if the story should have opened with the visit to the Art Gallery and Museum. Always guaranteed an interesting twist at the end of your tales and I was not disappointed by his one (really liked the last paragraph).
- The Fair  by Jenny — Had to look up the references (curious) and wonder if you intentionally implied a connection between Lale and laylah as in Alf laylah wa laylah (The Thousand and One Nights). These fictional trips to Turkey are great stories, although it would seem that Lale choosing to stay with Ahmed III was not such a good idea at that particular time but the allusion to The Thousand and One Nights was good.
- Forward To The Past by Gaz — I was completely surprised to discover the prevalence of bearded women, something that made me read the story differently. Nevertheless, the mix of detail in the protagonist’s struggle to make her way in the world didn’t work for me and I thought that the first paragraph could have been contained within the story. However, given the period in which it was set, the story became plausible.
- Kolya The Bear by Dan — yet another completely off the wall story, which I always enjoy. Possibly because they are always so vividly descriptive, even atmospheric, really silly, really plausible (sort of) and the dialogue is invariably funny. Oh! The language and punctuation is always done well.
- The Hall Of Mirrors by Charles — I’m not sure about the point of view (POV) here Charles. You chose the first person and to my mind that made the story’s denouement difficult. This was a creative conclusion but was the character, or perhaps more correctly, was the protagonist aware of being in two time periods at this point? It would seem that he had to be to describe the environment and his thought processes on finding himself in the past. We are now left with an abandoned car sometime in the future. Or are we? I think that the POV implies that we are. I can’t see any reason why a person can’t exist in more than one time zone, but if this was the case the story never made it clear.