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utterly crushed
June 15, 2011, 2:30 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , ,

There is a difference between literature and pulp we are told, and it seems one strong argument for difference forms around the issue of didacticism.  If it preaches at you, it’s a tract or a manifesto and can’t be literature.  Pamphleteers, campaign managers and copy writers have petty politics and bottom lines in mind and dispatch their missives motivated by short term influence.  It’s a base activity:  move money now, gain power, broaden influence, create loyalty.

Literature on the other hand, classically speaking, has loftier aspirations and doesn’t stoop to moralizing or preaching or influencing.  So, in strict structural terms, literature may show us the human spirit and condition and we are frozen in apprehension at our comic and ultimately mortal place in the world.

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new plotlines
March 29, 2011, 10:16 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: ,

Plot lines in contemporary young adult fiction; descriptions by Laura Miller in her essay Fresh Hell:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:  “Every year, two children from each district are drafted by lottery to compete in a televised gladiatorial contest, the Hunger Games, which are held in a huge outdoor arena. The winner is the last child left alive.”

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld:  “all sixteen-year-olds undergo surgery to conform to a universal standard of prettiness determined by evolutionary biology.”

The Maze Runner by James Dashner:  “teen-age boys awaken, all memories of their previous lives wiped clean, in a walled compound surrounded by a monster-filled labyrinth.”

House of Stairs by William Sleator:  “the story of five teen-agers imprisoned in a seemingly infinite M. C. Escher-style network of staircases that ultimately turns out to be a gigantic Skinner box designed to condition their behavior. “

The White Mountains by John Christopher:  “alien overlords install mind-control caps on the heads of all those over the age of thirteen.”

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien:  the aftermath of nuclear war.

The Giver by Lois Lowry:  the drawbacks of engineering a too harmonious social order.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd:  the consequences of resource exhaustion.

Further plots described by Miller:

There are, or will soon be, books about teen-agers slotted into governmentally arranged professions and marriages or harvested for spare parts or genetically engineered for particular skills or brainwashed by subliminal messages embedded in music or outfitted with Internet connections in their brains. Then, there are the post-apocalyptic scenarios in which humanity is reduced to subsistence farming or neo-feudalism, stuck in villages ruled by religious fanatics or surrounded by toxic wastelands, predatory warlords, or flesh-eating zombie hordes.

Fresh Hell, Laura Miller, The New Yorker, June 14, 2010