Various Matters

Mom,

1) On the National Book Awards: as I said in my tweet (and you quoted in your title) I was being intentionally snarky about the NBAs.  And, as you noted, I cherry-picked my examples for effect.  I hope everyone reading realized that I was being somewhat facetious.  Nevertheless, I maintain that the NBAs are more interested in “message” books than the Newbery or the Printz: in the year The Penderwicks won, three of the other finalists were about death and the fourth was about date rape.  As I also said, I don’t really think this is a problem with the awards, just an interesting data point to keep an eye on.

2) Back on the topic of accuracy: Your mention of author’s notes saying that “details were changed to serve the story” and Beth’s comment about more or less authentic voices in historical fiction have got me swinging back around to the other side of the accuracy debate.  The author’s note, for instance, seems to me a major cop-out.  If you’re going to change details to serve the story, the reasons should be explicit in the text itself, like your example of Grafton’s imaginary Santa Theresa – we shouldn’t have to wait for an author’s note to realize that facts have been changed.  And Beth’s point that Children and Teens in particular are a great audience for learning about the different ways people spoke and thought in the past helped me remember how completely irked I get when I read historical fiction that does not seem to care about making an attempt at historical accuracy.

So, what we probably really need is a taxonomy of mistakes like the one I made of adaptations (historical facts, geographical facts, language mistakes, typos, thematic, etc. etc.), and a ranking of how important each is and how they can be fixed or weighed.  But, I don’t think I really have the inclination to create one right now (feel free to do so, if you want to).  I think the main point is that the answer is probably a lot more mundane than I wanted to make it.  I want to have some sort of objective standard for what counts as a significant error and how to deal with it as a critic or on an awards committee, but in reality, it probably has to come done to Beth’s phrase “good enough.”  There are going to be errors in every book.  Some readers will notice more than others.  Some mistakes are more egregious than others, and each reader (or committee) has to come to its own determination as to how much those errors influence their judgement of the book.  I’m not terribly happy with this answer, and I don’t mean to close the book on this discussion, so if you have other ideas, please bring them forward.

3) The Giants just scored two in the top of the 5th while I was writing this, so clearly my priorities are misplaced right now.  I’m signing off to watch the Gamecast.

- Mark

2 Comments

Filed under Awards, Books

2 responses to “Various Matters

  1. Eric

    Have either of you had a chance to read SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN yet? It’s a very fun read (I liked it much better than Heart of a Samurai), The story is historical fiction but as Preus explains in the back matter it is inspired by the experiences of real resistance fighters. Well done historical fiction, but when compared to Code Name Verity it just isn’t nearly as strong. It’s also a title that occupies that space between YA and middle grades.

  2. Mark Flowers

    @Eric – I haven’t read it (my library doesn’t have it yet), but I look forward to it.

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