Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reading And Remembering

I have always wondered about children's books like A Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Mixed Up Chameleon (both by Eric Carle) and how they are are able to make such a deep and lasting impression on kids. Is it the simplicity of their theme, the lovely illustrations in all colors of the rainbow or is it something else that results in the impact. This Newsweek article on Eric Carle's life and it's influence on what he wrote could have some of those answers. Maybe going through very painful (and therefore trans-formative) life experiences gives writers that unique edge that cannot be matched by those who have not had comparably difficult circumstances.

So while cute, easy and well-illustrated children's books are a dime a dozen, a select few become iconic classics like Caterpillar.It seems the same rules apply for writers who write for adults too. When I think about authors who I admire most - almost each has been very intimately acquainted with pain and suffering. Then there are those whose lives are far shallower in comparison - those who have experienced minor privations and therefore have the luxury of aggrandizing them to compensate for the real thing. While great imagination can fill in a lot of gaps, the authenticity of voice is not one of those things.

What you have not experienced is hard to express with passion or conviction - you don't even have the material with which to create a fantastical, imagined world. From such writers you get well-crafted work that is steeped in mediocrity. You read and forget them with equal alacrity.

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