Model Citizens: The Book Review

Here is a book review I found particularly insightful when I was composing one of my one.

In this review, the Brits’ wry humour and sarcastic prose really shine through. It is a world apart from some of the writing we have over here, though oddly refreshing.



The Wild Things by Dave Eggers: review

By Amanda Craig

The current vogue for rewriting or adding sequels to children’s classics, from Winnie-the-Pooh to A Little Princess, is an alarming feature of this year. Instead of taxing readers with new stories, characters and situations, publishers hope that by updating familiar ones they will strike gold. The latest of these ventures is Dave Eggers’s novelisation of Maurice Sendak’s great picture book, Where the Wild Things Are, soon to be released as a movie.

Eggers, whose bestselling memoir was entitled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, is not, as you might guess, burdened with modesty, and here he tackles Sendak’s unique fusion of words and pictures with verbose worship. Where the original Max is shown in his white wolf suit, racing downstairs with a fork in his hand chasing a little dog, called a “wild thing” by his mother, and being sent to his room in disgrace, here we have his back-story filled in, complete with snotty teenage sister, an absent father, soccer, school and a mother who wants him to be “a force of stability, not chaos”.

Every tiny incident of the original, with its remarkable fusion of word and picture, is here fleshed out in flabby prose. Max’s exquisitely funny tantrum, supperless punishment and magical escape from his bedroom, which sprouts a forest to “where the Wild Things are” become ploddingly real. Eggers’s hero has “conflicting thoughts”, floods his sister’s bedroom vengefully, runs away from home, finds a boat and sets off on a sailing expedition to an island where there are “lumbering beasts” who strike Max as “infant-like, almost cute, and at the same time pathetic, tragic”. He sets fire to their forest, but escapes being eaten by telling them a story. The climactic “wild rumpus” that in Sendak’s book occupies three wordless double pages is here a wordy way of exhausting his would-be predators.

Occasionally Eggers breaks out into poetic prose: “The air and moon together sang a furious and wonderful song: come with us wolf-boy! Let us drink the blood of the earth and gargle it with great aplomb!” The nameless, feral Wild Things of Sendak are here called Carol, Douglas and Katherine and talk the psychobabble of middle America; one tells him she feels “like I’m constantly burdened by everyone’s issues”.

Sendak’s hero becomes the Wild Things’ king by virtue of his defiant naughtiness when he “stared into all their yellow eyes without blinking once”; he returns because he decides he wants to be with “someone who loves him best of all”. When the Wild Things plead “we’ll eat you up we love you so”, his answer is just “no”, before returning to his room where his supper, the last page tells us, “was still hot”.

Here, Max has to allow himself to be eaten by one monster, Katherine, in order to escape being eaten by another, Carol, then he’s rebirthed by being fished out of her stomach. He is sent home, through more seas of queasy prose, where he finds “a whole meal laid out for him”.

Nothing can touch the quality of Where the Wild Things Are, which generations will love, be terrified by and find their own way through as one of the first works of literary and artistic genius a child is likely to encounter. However, as a symptom of the moral and imaginative bankruptcy that now afflicts publishing on both sides of the Atlantic, this is a shameful book.

Check out the original link at the Telegraph’s website


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Filed under Miscellaneous, People who inspire me

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