Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Night of Unabashed Teeniness

Brian has already blogged about this, but I'll toss in my two cents.

Metro State University and the Saint Paul Public Library hosted award winning authors M. T. Anderson, Pete Hautman, and Alison McGhee in a panel discussion moderated by author and Hamline MFA-program dean Mary Rockcastle.

Discussion ranged from genres and their audiences, to writing craft, to rodents with aberrant pigmentation. It was illuminating, inspiring, and often very funny. Among the many impressions I took away was one of renewed enthusiasm for YA literature, generated in large part by Alison McGhee's response to some discussion about YA versus adult and relating to a teenage audience She said "I am all the ages I have ever been" (or something to that effect).

This struck me not only as a statement of principal from an author whose work appeals to a variety of ages and who refuses to think of her work as written for an age, but also as an admonition to readers of all ages to read about a variety of ages and to refuse confine their points of view to a narrow span of years. Good writers do not cease to visit a teenage world just because they have ceased to inhabit the teenage decade, and, I think, good readers must strive for the same flexibility, lest we atrophy amongst comfortable, familiar stories.

Aside form all the feel-good stuff, I wish they had made book price part of their discussion of YA versus adult and how readers and book industry value one ahead of another. I almost asked, but didn't, "Why, for example, is Octavian Nothing $17.95 while Cormac McCarthy's The Road (a shorter book, incidentally) is $24.00? The book didn't cost any less to produce. Did you work less hard?" I know the complicated industry answers and they're boring, but I'd really be interested to hear an author's thoughts on how the marketplace (and it is the marketplace that creates and maintains these distinctions, I would argue) places a literal value on their work.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Yeah, that was pretty much the delineation of the evening: you wanted to talk shop, most everyone else wanted to siphon an iota of talent from the bevy on stage. The convergence of the two should have created a thunderstorm. It was fun.