Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Yorker's Panel Tanks It ...

I'm shocked.
Amazed. Amazed. Amazed that THE NEW YORKER -- probably the most important literary magazine in the United States just tanked an article on YA literature. Their book bench reads, a section of the magazine that is always fun to browse, has a panel discussing HEADLONG, by Kathe Koja. The panelists respond to the novel, its meaning, and the "YA label." Here are some of the most interesting quotes:

The book totally surpassed my expectations. I tend to think of young-adult fiction as sort of facile—a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals ..

Jenna Krajeski:
When I was a teen-ager, I assumed that the label [YA] was synonymous with preachy and boring, a companion to sex-ed classes. I still can’t imagine kids Lily’s age actually reaching for this book over “Tropic of Cancer.”

Ligaya Mishan:
Teen-age boys don’t read, apparently.

But I wonder if this is part of what demarcates young-adult fiction. Surely we demand of “adult” writers (or perhaps what I really mean is “great” writers) higher moral and philosophical stakes?


Well, of course we do demand of “great” writers—literary-fiction writers—higher moral and philosophical stakes. Like I said, I think the Y.A. genre is typically defined by very straightforward moral messages, ones that are deemed “suitable” for children, even if the subject matter deals with more grown-up topics (like sex or drinking).

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my. Part of me wants to be indignant, but the other part realizes that The New Yorker is guilty of what many are: perpetuating the idea that YA lit is second-rate and adolescent readers don't read complex novels. I'd like to say I'm surprised. Okay. I'm surprised THE NEW YORKER stooped this low. But I'm not surprised about the flippant attitude toward YA lit. I had a family member tell me, after my book was accepted for publication, that YA was just hack reading. Needless to say, he didn't get a free book. Granted, he will probably doesn't read anything other than the sports section of the paper anyway. Okay. Yeah. I'm miffed. Because if anything THE NEW YORKER who prides itself on being THE LITERARY MAG of the US dropped the ball and is, in my eyes, no better than that family member I mentioned.

So, THE NEW YORKER panel, let me introduce you to MT Anderson, Markus Zusak, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, An Na, Walter Dean Meyers, Terry Trueman, Cormier, Spinelli ... should I go on?

Welcome to the world of great lit. I'll let it slide .. this time. But honestly, you ended up looking like a bunch of elitist putzes instead of real readers of real literature. What a shame.


Heidi Ayarbe said...

Here's a link to the article.

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

...and Chris Crutcher. Introduce them to him, too...
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 is online!

Christine J. said...


Lisa Amowitz said...

Yeah..pfffft to them. The tsunami's gonna wash right over em'