Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing That Inspires!

I think the reasons why Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings received her 1939 Pulitzer Prize for writing 'The Yearling' are many--not the least of which is the incredible emotion packed into every single word. I offer the following:

Ma Forrester sat by the side of the bed. She held her apron over her head and rocked herself back and forth. She flung down the apron. She said, 'I've lost my boy. My pore crookedy boy.' She covered herself again and swayed from side to side. She moaned, 'The Lord's hard. Oh, the Lord's hard.'
 Jody wanted to run away. The bony face on the pillow terrified him. It was Fodder-wing and it was not Fodder-wing. Buck drew him to the edge of the bed. 'He'll not hear, but speak to him.' Jody's throat worked. No words came. Fodder-wing seemed made of tallow, like a candle. Suddenly he was familiar. Jody whispered, 'Hey.' The paralysis broke, having spoken. His throat tightened as though a rope choked it. Fodder-wing's silence was intolerable. Now he understood. This was death.

To my way of thinking, Rawlings (although she wrote about the common man in humble surroundings) ranks among the very elite of the world's fiction writers. She absolutely captured in the pages of her work the essence of the American experience, ca 1850. Great writers do that in their own time, for their fellow citizens, and for a universal audience, as well.
I think you have a copy of 'The Yearling.' If you don't, you must obtain one. Re-read this amazing story. And then, if you're like me, take a few days to decompress. :) My post-read experience has never changed--not in the several times that I've read this book. Thank you, Ms. Rawlings. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adventure fiction never loses its edge!

Total escape!
'Here the way was through utter darkness. The stream was narrow--so narrow that in the blackness I was constantly bumping first one rocky wall and then another as the river wound hither and thither along its flinty bed.

Far ahead I presently heard a deep and sullen roar which increased in volume as I advanced, and then broke upon my ears with all the intensity of its mad fury as I swung round a sharp curve into a dimly lighted stretch of water.'

The Warlord of Mars (1919) - Edgar Rice Burroughs

This amazing adventure story was published by A.C. McClurg, Chicago, the same year that my father was born! And it was my father who first introduced me to the novels of this greatest of science fiction/adventure writers. The first Burroughs novel I owned (and it's still in my bookcase) I received for my 10th birthday: 'Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar.'

Burroughs's descriptive passages resonate with me as much today as they ever did. Any writer wishing to work in the adventure genre needs to read Burroughs--pretty much any of his collective works will do.

Happy reading! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ben Mikaelsen's 'Touching Spirit Bear'

This excellent YA novel was not included on my earlier list (posted here at the end of last month), but I'm including it now, even though it's publication date is 2001. What I love about this well-written story is the depth to which the author takes his protagonist before attempting to bring him back (experience an epiphany)--a remarkable construct of character that requires a profound understanding of both human nature and the adolescent mind.

A teaching colleague and friend commented recently that 'Touching Spirit Bear' is a book he always has in the back of his mind while recommending/helping students make reading selections. He added that what is required in the case of this title is 'a reader who is mature enough' to handle the tough dialogue and raw message. I agree completely with that assessment. This is not a book for casual pickup, but rather one that might give a particular struggling student a needed 'jolt.' The story intends to grab the reader's attention, and it succeeds with room to spare!

Also woven into the story is the 'spirit bear' theme. Because of how compelling the plot and characters are, readers would be drawn into a closer investigation of the hereditary science behind these remarkable creatures. What exactly is a double-recessive gene? What produces an albino offspring? Since these double het animals do not have pink eyes (are non-albino), how do they differ from the more common albino variety? What are the myths and legends surrounding these animals in the Native/Indigenous world?

Teachers looking for a title to use with students for serious self-assessment and/or to affect change in attitude will find this book quite useful. Particularly beneficial with reluctant boy readers, looking for a no-nonsense, realistic perspective. It carries my highest recommendation.

Northwest 'Spirit Bears'

Here's another example of the double recessive gene in the wild. In this case, a 'spirit bear' of the Pacific Northwest. Again, a rather non-traditional black bear. The indigenous Klamath people of Oregon have ceremonies and stories about this animal.
I can recommend a wonderful fiction read on the subject: Ben Mikaelsen's YA novel, 'Touching Spirit Bear,' will take you on an adventure into the deep woods of the Northwest! It's beautifully written.