Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver focuses on 12 year old protagonist Jonas as he comes to the realization that his society is not the perfect place that he had always envisioned it to be. As Jonas comes to realize that his society runs based on the limited freedoms allowed her people, his innocence begins to slip away and he begins to see the horrors that truly exist. Two works by Don Latham paint the picture of why this novel is so enticing to children of this day and age by arguing that it undermines the idea of a ‘Romantic’ childhood and portrays Jonas as a sort of ideal American. Building upon this idea is that of the integral need for a child to learn to question the environment that he or she has grown up on, as Jonas comes to realize throughout his apprenticeship to the Giver and in his relationship with Gabriel. Continue reading
Our associations with certain authors often inform our reading. When reading a well-known author, there is particular risk of confusing the identity and traits of the author with that of his narrator or characters; when Robert Jordan swigs whiskey from a flask in For Whom the Bells Toll, we cannot help but partly feel that it is Hemmingway describing the delicious burning after warmth—after all, wasn’t he an ‘infamous’ alcoholic? In Dostoyevsky’s case, he is commonly associated with periods of gambling, epilepsy, and general mental instability, and has accordingly become championed as an example of the artistic “madness/genius myth,” which claims mental instability as a necessary co-inhabitant of profound artistic creativity.
During my research of Mary Karr’s 1995 memoir, The Liars’ Club, I have come across several articles that focus on the work’s use of non-traditional autobiographical techniques in order to give voice to subjects that have historically been problematic for the life writing genre to engage in discourse with or even to simply voice as an issue. In particular, critics seem very interested as to where Karr’s text falls within the spectrum of the autobiography and as to how its use of invention informs the ethos of the narrator. The work itself is often referred to as a literary memoir and, along with Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, has become emblematic of this genre’s use of novelistic techniques like selective inclusion, exclusion, and even exaggeration or manipulation of details that have traditionally been overlooked in autobiography as a whole. This genre is often described as a hybrid genre between fiction and non-fiction that acts to blur the lines between the two and in doing so giving rise to questions about the reliability of memory and whether the importance of an autobiographic text lies in the literal truth of a situation or in the emotional truth that the memoirist is trying to capture through the act of writing. Continue reading