I know, I know. I’m coming late to this table, and you’ve probably all already read the October 26 NYT book review of J. K. Rowling’s, THE CASUAL VACANCY. Which novel, I hasten to add, I haven’t read. What I’m anxious to share here is my outrage at the way in which the Times‘ reviewer, Amanda Foreman, chose to minimize the book- i.e. by minimizing writing for children. Here’s what she says about Rowling’s reliance on modifiers and clichés:

 “In her move to adult fiction, Rowling has not been able to shed certain stylistic features that are acceptable or even expected from children’s authors. Juvenile literature often uses physical metaphors to highlight emotional states because in children the two tend to be so closely allied. “The Casual Vacancy” has various characters feeling guilt “clawing” at their “insides,” a “hollowness in the stomach,” fear “fluttering” inside the “belly,” a “queasy” stomach, a “lowering in the pit” of the stomach, a “knot” in the stomach. In adult fiction, it isn’t necessary to load so many actions — or objects — with adverbs and adjectives. Children thrive on heavily signposted plots, on moral exposition masked as dialogue. Adults don’t need or want such direction.”

ACCCKKKK! How long do we writers for children and young adults need to fight the same discrimination and misperceptions about what we do? And about our readers, for heaven’s sake? Children “thrive on heavily signposted plots, on moral exposition masked as dialogue,” do they? And hackneyed metaphors, too, apparently? Geez, Louise!

Ms. Foreman, the daughter of one of our most famous screenwriters, was, if her daddy allowed her books as well as films, a young reader herself once. Does she really remember craving obvious, heavy-handed plots? Or wanting to be morally instructed by such stories? Or did she simply take the path of least resistance here, and try to force a misguided comparison between apples and oranges? Good writing is good writing, hear me roar. No matter whom it’s written for.

Yes, that rhymes. Maybe adults, who thrive on reinforcement, will remember it better that way.

Okay. Now that I’ve calmed down, I’d love to hear what those of you who’ve read THE CASUAL VACANCY thought of it…


Conclusive proof that children’s author, Lisa Yee, couldn’t put Rowling’s new novel down!



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6 responses to “THE CASUAL DISDAIN…

  1. Martine

    You go, girl!

  2. louisehawes

    Sometimes a girl’s just gotta do what she’s gotta do. Thanks, Martine 😜

  3. Oh, thank you!!! I’ve been fuming about Foreman’s disdainful comment for over a week ( I get my NYT book review late and read it later, so am late to the table, but!) Good writing is good writing, no matter who the target age. And of course, that goes for bad writing as well.

  4. louisehawes

    I hear you, Sharry. Represent! I still smart at the memory of being asked, after I was hired by an adult education specialist, when I was going to start writing “real” books!

  5. Remember when certain types went nuts that a children’s book made it to the ADULT bestseller list?

    • louisehawes

      Yes, Barbara! I suppose you could say we’ve come a long way, now that there’s an NBA award for young people’s literature. (This award first given in 1996.) But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked when I’m going to write “serious” books! GRRRR.

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