From the New Yorker to Children’s Lit: Adam Gopnik

Another cheery draftee to children’s literature is New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik, profiled in The San Francisco Chronicle this morning. Interviewer Regan McMahon writes:

“He was 75 pages into writing an adult novel and realized “it was boring.” Then one day he was in the American Library in Paris, in the room with what he calls stories of the marvelous and the supernatural — “I hate to say children’s literature because it sounds condescending” — “and I thought, those are the kind of books I loved with all my heart and soul, rather than reading with my mind and taste. And as long as I was going to write a book, I wanted to write it from my favorite images and my deepest obsessions, and that was the kind of book where the magical and extraordinary suddenly enters into the life of an ordinary person.”

The article gives a quick sketch of the book’s premise; The King in the Window tells the tale of 11-year-old Oliver, an American boy in Paris with his family who gets drawn into a parallel universe by the revenants in the hotel mirrors who’ve stayed ‘active’ since the reign of Louis XIV. This middle grade novel sounds like an extraordinarily creative jaunt into the paranormal.

Admittedly, it’s always great when an able, articulate general fiction writer crosses over to the kid’s side of the world. However, Gopnik bewilders me a little when he tries to find an apt description of the other literature from the American Library in Paris that he read as he was working on this piece. Do the words ‘children’s literature’ sound condescending to you? (Gopnik prefers to call it ‘literature of the marvelous and the supernatural.’) Whatever you call it, the heartfelt sentiment that ‘these are the books that I love’ rings true, and I hope we all follow the call to write what we love, no matter what anyone else says is marketable, acceptable or trendy.

YHappy WritingY

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