Monday, August 18, 2008
The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg
Ostensibly this is a book for children. And why not, after all the two main characters are children? Only they're not. They're adults in children's clothing, and like all the characters in the story they are kind of dusted off and placed in the same raggedly careless fashion any item might be when cleaning out the attic.
At eighty it is almost as if Koningsburg has forgotten what children are like. But that hardly matters, she herself almost acknowledges this. Better yet if the book hadn't been marketed for children at all. It's for librarians and teachers and schools, aspiring art critics, and literary awards, it's for those people who were never young or who enjoy writing that you could frame and put on a wall.
Not that the book is quite full of quotes as such, because most can't quite be lifted from the text and maintain their full import like, "Selective forgetting is the first symptom of Austrian amnesia " (harks back to all the nazis protesting their innocence, but seems equally applicable to American politics today.) & the very funny when applied to pink bubblegum and priceless art, "whatever happened to the unposted laws of civilized behaviour?" Only "Ninety percent of who you are is invisible" seems to work all by itself.
This is a clearing out of the attic book. A search to find amazing treasure, only to discover there is 90% of any character, real or fictional that you will never see, and mostly it is not about children at all but about an old diva who has sung for the last time, and even as her precious home is being dismantled, she is putting on one last show, a real life performance so that the main character (and the reader) can understand a bit more about that "mysterious edge of the heroic world," about the past and the present and the secrets that lie just beyond that ten percent of the known world.
I'm not entirely sure about who this book is for, I'm not even entirely sure that I liked it, maybe it was just a bit too much like cough syrup for my liking, maybe the promised treasures just turned to so much dusty plastic under careful scrutiny. I'm not sure, but I do know that Joanna would say that this is all because I haven't quite grown up yet and, after all this was a book for adults. Never mind, Peter Pan awaits, and growing up is something that only children aspire to.
Review by Alicia Ponder