On Telling Stories

Posted by sepoy on December 15, 2004 · 2 mins read

I have not read any of the Series of Unfortunate Events books but there are certain members in the sepoy household that hold them very near and dear. I have been toiling away in hopes to buy winter solstice presents for those individuals and not having much luck. Graphic novels? Why can't Neil Gaiman be more productive, huh? Any of you have a recommendation for an incredibly literate 10 year old?

Anyways, during my "research", I came across an interview with Lemony Snicket, the author of the Series books, in the Independent. A very nice answer:

Q: Are your stories based on real-life things?
Matthew Shuttleworth, aged 10, by e-mail

A: All stories are based on two things: real-life things, and other stories, but these "other stories", of course, are also based on the same two things - real-life things or other stories, and these "other stories" are also based on the same two things, and so on, and so on, and this complicated arrangement is further complicated by the tendency for real-life things to become stories as time passes, and the difference between real-life things and stories becomes complicated, so real-life things tend to get lost inside stories that are based on real-life things and on other stories, or perhaps it's the other way round, with stories based on real-life things and other stories getting lost inside real-life things, which might explain why, in real life, we often feel so very lost that even answering a simple question becomes so exhausting and confusing that we want to lie down with our eyes closed and listen closely to the string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich and certain 12-in singles by New Order.

That about sums it up, don't it?

update:Woh! This is entry # 250 at the CM. That sounds like a milestone to me. Or at least the half way point. How long is one supposed to blog? 1 year sound about right? 500 entries sound better. That could be the published book: 500 Things I Had To Say When I Should Have Been Working On The Dissertation And Now I Adjunct At The Naval Academy. Hmmm..., quickly, I nominate this as my favorite post out of 250 because it captures so brilliantly what goes around at CM day in, day out.


Kristi | December 15, 2004

I have read out loud five of the Lemony Snicket series to my seven-year-old. And I have enjoyed it because an authorial voice or "story-teller" is part of the book and therefore, makes the book a little bit about the art of narrative. For one, the narrator kills the big suspense -- will it end happily or not? -- by telling us that it will end badly. For two, there are enough times when the author interrupts the plot (to define a word, to relate a sad story from his own "life," to caution the reader about getting too hopeful that things will end well) to simulate an oral story-telling experience. Which is what my daughter is getting when I read to her. So, the net result is thinking about story as a construction of some other mind, not something that is "true." Anyway, this series hooked her and made her think that reading might be an enjoyable pasttime. And, even though these books are above her reading fluency level, she has just finished reading the first book on her own (without any encouragement from me). Go David Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). There must be other good writers of children's fiction out there.

Farangi | December 15, 2004

CM does not stop. EVER.

Sumana | December 15, 2004

"Any of you have a recommendation for an incredibly literate 10 year old?" Mark Twain's "The Innocents Abroad" Fitzgerald's Gatsby and then Gordon Korman's retelling "Jake, Reinvented" Or you could just ask Brad DeLong to send you the books his kids finish reading. Watch out for the books I read when I was too young to understand them (homepage link).

Jonathan Dresner | December 15, 2004

I'm not sure if it's entirely 10-year old material, but Robert Heinlein's juvenalia is quite fun ("Have Space Suit, Will Travel" or "the Rolling Stones" for example. Lloyd Alexander's Prydain stuff is probably more 13-year old material, as is LeGuin's Earthsea, and McCaffrey's Dragonriders is really older still. that's not helping.... My nieces have really enjoyed the "Magic Treehouse" series, which takes students into historical episodes (and there are now companion volumes explaining the historical background in depth).

sepoy | December 15, 2004

Sumana: Innocents Abroad is great. And, can we do a survey of how many desi kids read Art Buchwald because their fathers had that? You are the fourth person so far - including me. Jonathan: The Magic Treehouse series sounds really interesting. Reminds me of Enid Blyton's magic tree...anyone read her anymore?

wanderer | December 15, 2004

reecommendations for the literate 10 year old (and semi-literate 20-somethings) -The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin) -A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle)and her other books as well -Roald Dahl's Omnibus of short stories (assuming she has already read his great novels) - The Belgariad & The Mallorean series (David Eddings) -Tuck Everlasting, The Eyes of Amaryllis, The Search for Delicious (Natalie Babbitt) -Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) -From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg) -oh and i was about 10 when some relatives from the subcontinent gave me the obligatory 'jeeves' by wodehouse. have enjoyed it ever since. good luck. merry solstice!

s¯nee | December 15, 2004

Congratulations on the 250 milestone. (out of which only 27 posts are 'NON' *shibrum-shibrum*)....keep up the good work !!

Nitin | December 16, 2004

Sepoy, When I was ten years old, I used to love this Indian comic book series called Amar Chitra Katha. They now have an online store.

sepoy | December 16, 2004

Nitin: Yes, I like the series a lot and have the Jataka Tales - thanks for the heads up on the website! Sonee: Whatever. the shibrum-shibrum posts are clearly marked for you to avoid. Wanderer: many thanks for that list.

Sumana | December 16, 2004

ACK! I have about a hundred of those, including the entire 42-issue Mahabharata set. If/when you visit San Francisco let me know and you can see the Birbal issues!

sepoy | December 16, 2004

sumuna: will be in berkeley mid-feb. love to see the Mahabharata set.

Sin | December 18, 2004

Madeleine L'Engle works, as do Ursula LeGuin, and (of course) Neil Gaiman (I'd suggest "Stardust", and "Coraline"). Personally, I was reading PG Wodehouse and John Irving when I was 9, and loving them, so my opinions may be semi-skewed. And Terry Pratchett's not so bad either ;) Try "Good Omens", or one of the more light-hearted Discworld novels ("The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" comes to mind).

sepoy | December 19, 2004

The movie lacks wit, life and a coherent narrative. In case anyone wondered.

dods | December 21, 2004

Do you mean Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree??? I very much so DID read them... as well as the Wishing Chair! Then I found out she was racist and prejudice and wasnt my fav author no more as for suggestions... I remember reading H G Wells - The Invisible Man Charles Dickens - Great Expectations or maybe it was just condensed versions of those stories...?? hmm that dad'gum British glossed curriculum had to have those books i remember enjoying them though : \

Dhananjay | March 02, 2005

Hi Sepoy I really enjoyed your Berkeley SAC paper. Couldn't get to meet you, so was googling you :) and stumbled on this fascinating blog. Have been lost in it ever since. Great posts. May you get all your wishes- including that tenured job. As the father of a fairly literate eight year old- who is just gotten hooked on to Lemony Snickett- I fully second all of the above suggestions. I have found these websites useful in hunting down books with my kid (usually at the local public library) www.kidsread.com www.nea.org/readacross/resources/kidsbooks.html www.nea.org/readacross/resources/catalist.html Cheers, Dhananjay