Tuesday, January 27, 2009

RIP John Updike, Crash, How to Steal a Dog, Movies

Today John Updike died. This man was very busy. He must have
been very very disciplined. I wish I could say I'd read
his books, but I can't.

So . . . I guess I am starting to understand why kids
enjoy reading fantasy. Reading fantasy lets you
admit/believe/realize that lots of crazy problems exist,
but fantasy lets you think they exist only in OTHER WORLDS!
How comforting, right?
In school, Gus is reading Crash by Jerry Spinelli.
The unit is "realistic fiction." He calls it re-fi.
Btw, historical fiction is known as hi-fi.
This kind of fiction makes kids face things that
happen in real life--which is fine when you're a
book editor--you're paid to think: Yes, kids!
Face the facts. Life is harsh. Life hurts.
Bad stuff happens. Read on!

But when it is your child, you think:
Oh, honey, let's read about fairies.
That will give you nice dreams.
The truth is they like both and they need both.
Right? They do need to escape into worlds that
don't correspond to every day life,
but they also need to feel things that are real.

In Crash (have not read, but dipped in) the Grandpa,
Scooter, has a stroke after his grandson Crash tackles
him in a football game. Is it Crash's fault? It certainly could be.
(I will have Gus review the book for the blog later this week!)
But what child will not feel to blame for something tragic
that's happened some time in their childhood?
They will. We all did.
I wonder how Gus feels when he reads this,
if he relates at all. He is very literal,
so he probably doesn't see himself at all.
But I wonder if he relates to another
character in the book.
I'll ask him tomorrow and let you know . . . .

Each night we have been reading a few chapters from a
wonderful novel called How to Steal a Dog.
Looking at the cover, you'd think it was light and funny,
and though parts of it are, it's actually about a girl
and her little brother (and their mom) who are living in a car.
We are about six chapters in, and both kids (mine)
are feeling what it might be like to be ashamed of your life,
to have to try and hide the truth from your friends,
and to want something so badly you're willing to do
something crazy, like steal a dog...only to try and
find it in order to get the reward.
It just makes you think. Sure there is an evil villain,
a Voldemort--but he's nothing more than an absent
father. So there are no battles to fight or spells to cast.
The kids have to figure out how to feel about sadness that can't be named.
Hmmm. It's the same in picture books--but the novels take time and sink in.
I would love to have a book club for kids.
Even if it was just to allow them to tell their stories.

Last weekend I saw four movies in two days,
and I warn you--there is a danger. I now have so many
people's points of view and stories in my head,
that whenever a friend tells me something,
I instantly compare it to a character I met in one of these films.
A friend having a hard time taking care of an ailing
father was compared to the father/daughter relationship in
The Wrestler. Another friend mentioned the burden
of taking care of both child and husband, and my
response wasn't: "Oh, it's so hard." Nope--
instead I said," Yup, that's why Kate Blanchett
knew she couldn't take care of her own child plus Benjamin Button!"

In any case, all four films--The Reader,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Wrestler,

and Last Chance Harvey--all gave me
plenty to think about. The oddest thing being that Last Chance Harvey and
The Wrestler had A LOT more in common than one might expect . . . . really . . . the themes of feeling like a man without a family, feeling like a has-been, and especially (spoiler alert) heart ailments! (One big difference, however were the physical incarnations of the respective love interests: It's hard enough comparing a sixtyish fairly-odd smirky DustinHoffman with a skanky stapled plastic-faced Mickey Rourke, but a naked stripper version of Marisa Tomei with nipple rings vs. the wholesome Londoner with pony tail and a scrunchy from the 80s, Emma Thompson? Gulp.)

My friend Babette told me today that in Greek, the work hysteria
means wandering womb because Greek women were supposed to be happy
all the time, especially taking care of kids. But that when they
acted "hysterical" it was because the womb was traveling around
taking control of other parts of the body.

Good night. By the way, to comment on the blog, you have to LOG IN.
Sorry about that. It's something to do with spam comments that feature viagra!!


  1. This is a highly readable and enjoyable post, Jill.
    I've bookmarked your blog for daily perusal. PS. this was before I saw that you mentioned my book. Signed, Jill

  2. Love the new blog! And thanks for the shout-out for HOW TO STEAL A DOG. Hope it makes for some interesting discussions!

    You SHOULD start a book club for kids. You'd be great at it.

    Frances sent me the link to your blog shortly after I heard from you on Facebook. She thinks it (and you) are wonderful.