Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When I Get Older...

The remarkable Paul McCartney celebrates 64 and 7 today. Not only does the former Beatle’s musical output and stamina continue to amaze, but 50 years after his first visit to the United States his appearances around the world still make headlines. While it’s easy to find out the salient facts of Mr. McCartney’s life, his role as co-author of a children’s book may be less well-known.  High in the Clouds (2005), Mr. McCartney's debut effort in the field of children's picture books was written with Geoff Dunbar and Philip Ardagh, and illustrated by Mr. Dunbar.

From Mr. McCartney’s website:
When Wirral the Squirrel is forced to leave his woodland home, destroyed by the expansion plans of the evil Gretsch, he vows to find the fabled land of Animalia, where all the animals are said to live in freedom and without fear. Aided and abetted by Froggo the hot air-ballooning frog, Wilhamina the plucky red squirrel, and Ratsy the streetwise rodent, Wirral’s personal quest turns into a full-blown plan to save enslaved animals everywhere – a plan which is fraught with danger.

A review from Publishers Weekly can be found here.
Mr. McCartney with a furry friend. Even the Internet couldn't
supply me with a photo of PM with a squirrel. Special thanks to
RD for bringing this image to my attention.

While High in the Clouds may not stand the test of time as great children’s literature, I can’t help liking a story in which the animals triumph against greed and woodland creatures are described as “Dotted among the branches of the trees, like notes on sheet music…”

All in the Family

Whether it was my personal lack of awareness or just the time I grew up in, the specter of anorexia and other eating disorders barely registered during the years I went to high school. Looking back now, I remember a classmate who wore her puffy down coat well past the coldest days of winter—when the rest of us were shedding as many layers as possible—and another whose bony wrists looked as if they might snap if they were grasped too tightly. I wonder if anyone knew that these girls needed help. I hope that they found it

Since that time, the amount of literature and other media on eating disorders has increased many times over and I find it hard to imagine an American girl who wouldn’t recognize at least some of the more obvious signs of these disorders in a classmate. The very modest silver lining of our preoccupation with weight, body image, and achieving physical “perfection” may be that we’re all more aware of the dark side of this focus for girls. Boys, however, are another story.

Research indicates that boys now comprise up to 10% of all cases of anorexia in this country. But public perception may not be keeping pace with the dimensions of this growing public health problem. While much remains to be said on the sociology and science of this phenomenon, a new book by YA author Lois Metzger provides some haunting insight into the personal toll the disease takes on both patients and those who love them. A Trick of the Light tells the story of Mike, a 15-year-old boy who develops an eating disorder, and his struggle to regain control of his life.  This moving and informative book is available today at bookstores and online.

Ms. Metzger, who is the author of three other novels, (as well as being my sister-in-law), talks about the process of writing the book here and here.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Good Father

In keeping with today’s holiday, Publisher’s Weekly printed a list of the ten worst fathers in literature.  Number 1 on the list was Humbert Humbert. Number 2 is Ram Karan a character from Akhil Sharma’s An Obedient Father, who commits a horrible crime against both his daughter and his granddaughter. The entire (depressing) list is here.

Gregory Peck as Atticus and Mary Badham as Scout in the wonderful
film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. I've read that the two actors remained
close throughout Peck's life. Seeing this reminds me of my own good fortune.

After reading it, I wanted to come up with my own list of good fathers in literature. I seem to be able to think of only one: Atticus Finch.  I’ve excluded those figures that appear as father figures, e.g., uncles and friends, as well as those that are dead or die shortly after the story begins. Other suggestions?