Liberalism and Social Justice Warriors have ruined children’s literature.

A while back, some guy said:

Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

Liberals take this very seriously.  That is why children’s literature now sucks so bad.

Evolutiontheorist left a humorous and insightful comment on my post about the children’s book The Tooth:

“I’ve noticed that the children’s book world is full of sentimental/boring works that only adults would be interested in. Every time I go to the library, it seems like I come home with at least one book that looked good, but turns out to be about a kid who’s pet died or a bird whose best friend turned out to be a snowball and then melted. Or about how the author grew up in poverty but it’s okay because they liked eating paint. (I am not making that up.)

Kids like books about cheeky toy trains, hoppy bunnies, funny superheroes, or grand adventures. They like rainbows and unicorns and swashbuckling pirates. They do not want to hear about how if you eat too much candy, you might have to go to the dentist and get a tooth pulled, for goodness’s sakes.”

If you don’t think that there is any particular agenda behind this, listen to the following children’s story.

Moral of the story: It’s fun being married to a cross-dresser!

But it isn’t (just) the liberal/SJW agenda that I’m objecting to.  If the story is well-crafted, I could talk through with my kids why I don’t agree with whatever political or “social justice” point the author was trying to make.  Kids’ books have always been a bit preachy in their own way, it’s just that back in the day the preachiness was aimed at getting kids to behave and be good and now it’s aimed at getting them to tear down Western civilization faster, faster, faster.  But the craft aspect to it is TERRIBLE now.  Thornton W. Burgess was a preachy conservationist, but my children loved hearing his stories about Reddy Fox and Lightfoot the Deer (you can listen to his stories being read by non-professional readers here).  He was a fine children’s literature writer despite his tendency to anthropomorphize deer and his inability to comprehend that slow death by starvation due to overpopulation is not kinder than a quick death by a hunter’s gun.

Several years ago on another blog I wrote a post entitled What is happening to children’s literature?  I think we understand now exactly what is happening to it, but I am going to repost that essay here since it seems relevant.

What is happening to children’s literature?  

Posted on 03/09/2014

Painting by Emil Rau | Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

If you have children, you probably already know that March is National Reading Month.

Because we don’t watch television, our family listens to a lot of audio books.  We try to choose ones that we all enjoy listening to and which will appeal to a range of ages.  A typical evening in our house finds us gathered in the living room, the children drawing or writing and me working on a blog post, while listening to stories on the CD player.  Because of this, I have listened to quite a number of both classic and modern children’s stories, and I have concluded that the modern ones are largely unimpressive.

Surely I am not the only parent who has noticed the startling decline in the quality of children’s literature?  I first began thinking about this about ten years ago, when my husband and I noticed that many of the picture story books that had the Caldecott Medal Winner sticker on them were so…weird.  The books were uninteresting to children and sometimes even frightened them, but I’m sure they were intriguing to the highly-educated, liberal parents of our generation who were raised to see things that are “alternative” as superior.  This is the basic ethos of progressivism; anything new and strange, no matter how objectively crappy, is better than what came before.  Weird, disturbing children’s books must be better than the simple, charming types of stories that came before, right?

We have continued to notice this trend as our children have gotten older.  One year awhile back, we joined a mother-daughter book club at the library.  One of the first books that was assigned to us was called The Higher Power of Lucky.  We were given a free copy of the book to read, and let me tell you, it was dreadful.  It was equal parts morbid and boring.  The ten-year-old main character is a girl named Lucky whose mother died from being electrocuted during a storm; her father is unaccounted for and she lives with her father’s first ex-wife in an old trailer in a depressing desert town.  She is obsessed with Charles Darwin for some reason and the primary adventure in the story seems to center around Lucky eavesdropping outside AA meetings and worrying that her guardian will abandon her.

Librarians are obsessed with this book.  It is everywhere; it is one of their most highly recommended books.  Just now we have returned from the library and there were five copies of the audio book on the shelf.  Five copies!  Audio books are expensive, and it always takes them ages to order the classic ones that I request, but somehow we have money for five copies of this book.  No one ever checks them out, but I’m sure it makes the librarians feel very cheerful and progressive to see them on the shelf.

There were several other books that we read for that book club, all equally strange and uninspiring.  Modern children’s books usually have main characters who are female, have an intense grrrll power message, and often involve scenes in which girls behave unethically to get what they want.  I allowed our girls to listen to a modern story called The Callahan Cousins on audio book last summer about three cousins (all girls) who stay with their grandmother for the summer.  The girls – all grrrl-powered up of course – lie, steal, gossip, sneak out, sneak around, and none of this is portrayed in the story as a negative thing.

I can’t imagine what kind of literature is out there for boys now.  I rarely see much of anything geared at boys on the shelves, other than stories based on movies, video games, and TV shows.  Classic literature isn’t used much anymore, but the new literature is mostly badly written, dull, upsetting, and uninteresting, mostly progressivist propaganda.  Virtually every book for girls in the age range of 7 to 12 seems to include some kind of self-conscious gender-bending or gender “stereotype” smashing theme.

I know that many of my readers are parents and would probably like to know of good books for children between the ages of 7 and 15.  I will start by recommending the following five books, none of which are Christian books.

All of these stories are available on audio book at our library, but even if you can’t get the audio version, I think your children would enjoy reading these stories:

The Miracles on Maple Hill  (1956) by Virginia Sorensen:

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939) by Margaret Sydney:

Rascal (1963) by Sterling North:

Larklight (2006) by Philip Reeve:

 

The Mistmantle Chronicles – start with Urchin of the Riding Stars (2005) by M. I. McAllister:

And our family’s FAVORITE series of audiobooks ever, Hank the Cowdog.

These are perfect for young boys as well as girls.  You can buy the books, but I very strongly recommended springing for the extra few dollars to buy the audio books.  The author reads them himself and includes songs, and his delivery is just so entertaining.  I recommend Hank the Cowdog very highly.  We have almost the entire series on audio book now (we’ve been purchasing them slowly over the past decade); also, check your library’s children’s audio book collection because they very well may have some of these or may be willing to purchase them.

Here is a YouTube clip of the author, John Erickson, giving a reading (he’s a much in-demand speaker and lecturer and is a salt-of-the earth Texan Christian sort.)

At last there is a way to solve that pesky overpopulation problem!

Mrs. Laura Wood has the scoop on the latest Supreme Court Ruling: SCOTUS Rules for Children:

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT ruled today, in the landmark case Scarsbury v. Scarsbury, that under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, children are entitled to establish their own bedtimes and eat whatever they darn well please. The 5-4 ruling was the culmination of years of struggle by children’s rights advocates. It was widely hailed as a victory for equality.

There is no word yet as to when the multinational corporation-sponsored Children’s Liberation Pride parades will begin, but let me be the first to bravely face the applause for signalling my superior moral status compared to all the Children, honor your parents! plebes around me by extending a heartfelt and very public congratulations to brave little Zachary for his courageous fight against cruciferous vegetable oppression.  I think we can all agree that the world is a better place when parents have lots of responsibility but absolutely no authority.

In fact, as Dr. Pamela Steinem-Valenti and her wife Dr. Rachel Valenti-Steinem have so clearly demonstrated in their ground-breaking work, saddling parents with mountains of obligations while simultaneously removing from them any expectation that their children not behave like monstrous brats, er, I mean liberated autonomous beings has the happy secondary effect of controlling the runaway population growth that even the Pope is so concerned about, as married Christian couples will now choose to have puppies rather than children:
childless Christians

The shame of victory, the social-appropriateness of defeat.

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat was an old slogan from ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s. A lot has changed in the 40 years since that slogan was popularized.

Earlier this week I overheard a boy holler, “I’m gonna win!  I’m gonna beat you!” and his mother immediately admonished him.  It caught my attention briefly because although it was just harmless kid-competition, it clearly embarrassed her, and my suspicion was that it embarrassed her because her son probably was going to win at the event in progress.  Of course, no one likes a braggart, but the kid wasn’t being over-the-top about it and it is normal for children, especially boys, to engage in the very human activity of competition and to take pleasure in winning.

I forgot about the incident until Friday when, during a speech therapy session that another mother was observing, one of the little boys in the group exclaimed, “I’m going to win!”  Since the task we were doing did not involve any competition, I started to tell him, “This is not a winning or losing activity, it’s an everybody-get-it-done activity” but his mother jumped in and corrected him before I could.  When we finished that task, the boys and I played a game to practice categorizing vocabulary items which involved competing to see who could be the first one to accumulate a word from each of five given categories.  I guess you could say everyone “wins” if they participate because they learn the words, but the actual game (and the only part the boys really cared about) involved someone winning by beating the other players and being first.

The boys tried to remind each other regularly about their individual imminent victory.  However, it was really stressing out the mother who was watching; whenever her son would get excited about acquiring another word and start to say “I’m about to win!” she’d jump in and say, “It’s not about winning; that’s not the point.”  I finally gently and respectfully pointed out that the game was in fact a competition and the object of the game was to win.

That was twice in one week that I had noticed the same thing from two different mothers, and I wondered what was going on with all this mother anxiety about children competing and getting excited about trying to win.  I decided I would explore the idea in a post when I had time and then forgot about it.

Until yesterday morning, when I had to take one of my daughters to run the Chelsea Heart and Sole 5K race. As I was sitting near the finish line waiting for my girl, I heard a boy say to his siblings, “I beat you!” as the family walked away from the finish line.  “It’s not about that!” his mother snapped at him.

OK, what?

Isn’t the point of a race to compete and hopefully win?  I think so and here is my evidence:

image

Why have a time clock and finish line if there is no goal to compete or to win?  Even if you know you will be bested by someone else, you are still racing against them because that is the point of a race.  If races are not about running to win, then why does the 5K website note:

Overall Male and Female winners in each event receive a trophy.

Now, there were certainly many people participating in the 5K who didn’t care about winning because they weren’t racing, they were participating.  Their goal wasn’t to race but to complete the course as a social event for some fresh air and exercise.  This is a small town and these kinds of events are also social gatherings. That’s why they brought over a van load of folks from the senior center and that’s why some special-needs high schoolers in wheel chairs were participating.

My nine-year-old daughter’s time was just shy of 40 minutes for the 5K; when it comes to running, she’s more enthusiastic than talented.  Her time put her across the finish line just barely ahead of the grannies in their motor scooters – and that is okay!  It is okay to run the race knowing that others are faster and will beat you.  What it is not okay to do is to conclude that because some people weren’t trying to win, therefore the point of a race isn’t for someone to win and that it’s wrong for others to try to win just because some people can’t.

But the boy who said this is in my daughter’s after-school running club.  These kids were there to race, to see who could run the fastest and win. It was a friendly competition, entirely normal and healthy.  The purpose of competitive games is to see who can win.  Why pathologize normal competition?  Why should people who win be ashamed of winning?

Of course, a humble attitude about winning is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that the point of a race isn’t still to compete and win.  The mothers I observed this week kept telling their sons that the point of a clearly competitive event wasn’t actually to compete.  If they thought their sons were being boastful, they might have corrected them by saying, “Don’t brag” or “Be humble.”  Instead they told them that they were wrong to think that the point of an obviously competitive event (whether it be a game or a race) was something other than competing.

Is this competition anxiety reserved for boys?  Particularly for white boys?  (I’m only using “white” here because those are the only kind of boys I routinely interact with because I live and work in a nearly mono-ethnic community.  Also, when I lived in a more diverse town, I never observed a non-white mother correct her son for trying to win in a competition.  Maybe if I have any non-white mothers reading, you can weigh in here and let me know if this happens in other ethnic/racial groups, too.)

I don’t think the mothers I observed admonishing their boys were bad mothers; in fact, I think they were very good mothers.  They were experiencing anxiety because they unconsciously perceived that their sons were violating an unspoken social norm and they were doing what they believed was right and moral for training their sons.  What I find interesting is that this social norm even exists: competing or winning or wanting to win or saying you want to win or noticing you won or expressing any pleasure in having won seems to be the new shame for (white?) boys.

 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

What is needed is healthy families and communities, not looser women.

One blog that I always read is Vox Popoli, written by Vox Day. Sometimes I agree with Mr. Day and sometimes I don’t, but I always find his posts thought-provoking and worth reading and considering. Today he wrote a post in which he describes Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who may have recently committed suicide/murder by intentionally crashing a German airliner:

…it won’t surprise me to learn that Lubritch was a deeply angry and embittered Omega male […] You can see Lubritch is a small and prematurely balding young man, possibly somewhat overweight, his occupation indicates that he was more intelligent than the norm, and the uncertain smile he has on his face tends to indicate low socio-sexual rank.

Mr. Day speculates that Mr. Lubitz may have been acting out of “omega rage,” which means that the young man may have been lacking in love, affection, and physical intimacy with women and it drove him mad, ultimately leading him to possibly commit this atrocity. So far, that’s fine because it is only speculation, and the possibility that someone could be driven mad by lack of human relationships is within the realm of possible explanations, though I think we could have a chicken-and-the-egg problem here. Who is to say this man might (allegedly) have had no satisfying romantic/emotional life because he was already mad? But this is all pure speculation.

But then Mr. Day writes,

…it is somewhat haunting to think about how many lives might be saved each year if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of [redacted sexual act].

There are several serious errors in this way of thinking. First, either loose women are bad for society or they aren’t. If they are, then wishing them to be even less discriminate in the expression of sexual immorality can’t logically lead to positive, life-saving benefits. On the other hand, if they aren’t bad for society, then they can’t logically be the cause of negative, life-destroying costs.

Second, as a Christian, as Vox Day himself is, how can one conclude that women should behave with even greater sexual immorality? Under no circumstances is increased sexual promiscuity permissible in the Christian world view. Had Mr. Day instead called for adherence to biblical sexual morality, I would have been completely in agreement with him; indeed, he does mention that in a more traditional society, Mr. Lubitz would possibly already have had a wife of his own (which he may have anyway, as this is all conjecture).

And third, saying that women should be less picky puts the blame for Mr. Lubitz’s actions on women, specifically feminists. How is that any different than shifting the blame back to men en masse by saying, “Well, if only men were less picky about only liking beautiful, chaste women, feminism would never have occurred, hence the sexual revolution would never have occurred, hence it’s all men’s fault!”?  After all, I’ve read that the cause of feminism was ugly women trying to compete for high quality men, so if women’s preference for non-omega men causes mass murder, then by the same logic men’s preference for hot babes over homely girls causes the feminism which causes the mass murder…

That would be an absurd thing to say, but no less absurd than blaming Mr. Lubitz’s actions on a society where the sluts are just too darn picky.  Feminism is one piece of bad fruit on the evil modernist tree that contributes to our declining mental and emotional well-being.  A society of weak families, nonexistent kin networks, and disconnection from community, land and God produces disaffected, vulnerable people.

Rather than complaining about loose women refusing to engage in sexual socialism, a better idea might be to encourage people to seek God our heavenly Father, form stable extended families, stop working long hours to fund overconsumption, and return to policies  and laws that would allow people to form a stable connection to their own communities and land.  Mr. Day knows what those highly politically-incorrect policies are and has the courage to talk about them, courage which many of us lack and for which I applaud him.  But the essay he wrote on Mr. Lubitz was disappointing because it was below his intellectual capabilities and presented a false and harmful solution; therefore I must respectfully disagree with his conclusion that a society of non-picky sluts would improve the mental health of disaffected men.

Capitalism should serve humanity, not rule us.

Mainstream Conservatives have embraced the idea that we must all serve capitalism rather than insisting that capitalism must serve us.  When there is a conflict between capitalism and humans, liberals conclude capitalism is evil and thus socialism must be better, whereas conservatives conclude that humans are the problem and must submit to capitalism.

Both are wrong.

Socialism will always fail because it is unnatural, inefficient, and requires great oppression of humanity to work even in the short term.  Capitalism is the most natural way to organize human commerce, but it cannot be unfettered.  It must be made to serve humanity, not rule us.

A prime example of this is the commercialization of childhood.  Unfettered capitalism sacrifices the well-being of children for profit.  That doesn’t mean we should utterly throw out capitalism; it means we should regulate some aspects of it.  That is actually a more traditional approach; prior to the 1980s, television regulation was in place to limit some aspects of capitalism by limiting broadcasters’ ability to pander to our basest desires in competition for our dollars:

The years of the administration of President Ronald Reagan were a time of intense deregulation of the broadcast industry. Mark Fowler and Dennis Patrick, both FCC chairmen appointed by Reagan, advocated free-market philosophies in the television industry. Fowler frankly described modern television as a business rather than a service. In 1981 he stated that “television is just another appliance. It’s a toaster with pictures.” Fowler’s position was a far cry from the approach of Newton Minow, who argued that government needed to play an intimate role in serving the public interest as charged in the Communications Act of 1934. Deregulation supporters advocated a “healthy, unfettered competition” between TV broadcasters.

Here we see conservatives insisting that all of humanity serve profit.  If television programming, including that marketed toward children, is violent or laced with sexual perversion (Glee!), conservatives love to blame liberal Hollywood but conveniently ignore how their own blinding faith in and obedience to capitalist profit above the community good makes it possible for liberals to indoctrinate our children with their filth.

On an individual level, we can all simply turn off our TVs or get rid of them altogether.  However, humans are not solely a collection of individuals; we are also families, kin networks, and societies, and conservatives would be wise to consider how capitalism can best be made to serve humanity rather than how humanity can be made to serve capitalism.

 

Should grade-school aged children be allowed to walk home from the park without an adult?

I was just recently thinking about the topic of free-range parenting, comfort-addicted kids, and under-developed gross motor skills, and then today I noticed this news story:

‘Free-range’ Maryland parents hit with ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect

The Maryland parents who believe in ‘free-range parenting’ and were investigated after police picked up their children — ages 6 and 10 — walking home alone from a park in January were reportedly found responsible for ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect […]

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they will continue to allow their children to walk home together. The legal ramifications are unclear if the children are picked up by police again […]

In January, the Meitiv children were walking home from the park, which is about a mile from their Woodside Park neighborhood, in broad daylight and were stopped by police after someone reported seeing them.

The kids were returned to the home and police reportedly talked to the parents about the dangers of the world […]

CPS reportedly followed up and forced the parents to sign a safety plan acknowledging that they would not let the kids go unsupervised. Alexander told the paper he resisted at first, but CPS threatened that if they refused, the kids would be removed from the home.

Apparently the parents had taught them the way to walk home and the children were familiar with it. I would think six is too young to be a mile from home alone, but what about with an older sibling of ten? And it was daytime, not dark! This seems like it should have been fine. One wonders about the person who reported this to the police.

We all want to keep our children safe, no doubt about it. But children walk home from school all the time; should walking home from the park be considered any more dangerous?

They see us as something to be busted.

How do our cultural elites see us?

I wandered around the local public library of my small, rural town this afternoon when I got done with work, looking for a book to read. Shelves of new self-help books shrieked my inadequacy at me – Clean up your clutter! Clean out your colon! – as I made my way toward New Fiction and finally, in exasperation, toward regular old Fiction. Honestly, I resolved to read six new books this year, but I’ve found myself rereading Barchester Towers instead because there is nothing new that I can stomach the thought of reading; here’s what the New York Times posted today for its paperback bestsellers list:

  1. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, by E. L. James
  2. GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn
  3. FIFTY SHADES DARKER, by E. L. James
  4. ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline
  5. FIFTY SHADES FREED, by E. L. James

Kinda heavy on the sadomasochism there. I’d probably read Orphan Train, but I didn’t see a copy of it.

But I will try to read something written in this decade, I decided, and leave Trollope on the shelf for today. I idly pulled out books, read the backs, and then reshelved them, which I know you’re not supposed to do, but I’m so careful, you know, it seems a shame to make the librarian do it.

A hopeful choice sporting a bride on the cover turned out only to be the latest Sophia Kinsella Let’s all fantasize about buying lots of stuff and sleeping with rich, hot men! novel but written under her new pseudonym (which is actually her real name); apparently even she must not be able to stand her own books anymore. I must confess that her Shopaholic series having sold nearly six million copies does make me think less of womankind as a whole.

I spotted a book with an interesting looking cover entitled Now Is the Hour by an author with whom I was unfamiliar, Tom Spanbauer, written in 2006, so it fulfilled my must-be-from-this-decade requirement. I flipped it over to read the reviews on the back cover.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, writes:

In Tom Spanbauer’s Now Is the Hour, white small-town America gets its cherry busted in an orgy of cigarette smoke and racism.

I stood there in my 96.1% white, nearly crime-free small town, and felt a flash of anger. People here work hard and are generally kind; before the sun comes up, the roads are already crowded with men in their pick-up trucks on their way to work. But you know, Chuck Palahniuk, with his orgies and his cigarette smoke and his racial hatred is clearly so superior to these men.

Something must be wrong here because I find myself possibly for the first time ever in agreement with The Guardian, where Patrick Ness, himself a homosexual man, writes scathingly of the much-lauded Now Is the Hour:

“The plot, if I must, begins with Rigby John Klusener hitchhiking to San Francisco in 1967 from rural Idaho, wearing flowers in his hair. The novel is the story of how he got there, including a devout Catholic upbringing on his parents’ farm, skinny-dipping with handsome Mexican labourers, falling in deep platonic love with rebel girl Billie Cody, and finally falling in actual love with 35-year-old alcoholic Native American George Serrano, who likes dressing up as a woman but who nevertheless is hired by Rigby John’s racist, homophobic father to work solo with his “spineless ass” son. Yes, okay, sure.

This is all told in a flood of Oprah-ready sunny aphorisms (“Miracles are out there somewhere. You just got to find them”), and most grandly emotional scenes end with the participants collapsing in laughter at something funny the reader’s missed. There are fantastically improbable and melodramatic deaths, an excruciating appropriation of pseudo-Native American myth, and three whole pages of Rigby John saying goodbye to his dog.

So the question is, why would such juvenile, navel-gazing nonsense be served up as “a triumphant return by one of America’s finest novelists”? I can only conclude that it’s to do with the novel’s “queerness”, its explicit sexuality blinding otherwise intelligent people to its manifest shortcomings.

Well, no wonder the novel was a runaway hit with our cultural elites, when there are whites to be mocked as evil, racist, bigoted homophobes –  just cherries to be busted. It is rather refreshing that a gay man like Ness took the time to note that the novel is actually a piece of trash and only the fact that it was “queered” made it a best-seller.

This is why you cannot give liberalism and modernity an inch. Not an inch, not a millimeter. They don’t want to live and let live. They see you as a cherry to be busted. And don’t think this is about being white; it isn’t. If you are black, don’t imagine that people like Palahniuk really care about you. They care about using you to validate their sick self-absorption and further their destructive agenda.

So, did I give up? Will I be spending another night with Trollope on my bedside table?

No, I found a book entitled The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published in 2011:

The Night Circus is a phantasmagorical fairy tale set near an ahistorical Victorian London in a wandering magical circus that is open only from sunset to sunrise. Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, features such wonders and “ethereal enigmas” as a blooming garden made all of ice, acrobats soaring without a net, and a vertical cloud maze where patrons who get lost simply step off and float gently to the floor. The circus has no set schedule, appearing without warning and leaving without notice; they travel in a train disguised as an ordinary coal transport. A network of devoted fans styling themselves “rêveurs” (“dreamers”) develops around the circus; they identify to each other by adding a splash of red to garb that otherwise matches the characteristic black and white of the circus tents. The magical nature of the circus is occluded under the guise of legerdemain; the illusionist truly transforms her jacket into a raven and the fortune teller truly reads the uncertain future, and both are applauded for their ingenuity.

The circus serves a darker purpose beyond entertainment and profit. The magicians Prospero the Enchanter and the enigmatic Mr. A.H— groom their young proteges, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, to proxy their rivalry with the exhibits as a stage.

I am trying not to let the fact that it spent seven weeks on the NYT Best Seller’s List or that it was a candidate for The Guardian’s First Book Award bias me against it, as the synopsis sounds delightful. I will let you know how it is, but surely it will be better than having my white, small-town cherry busted with orgies and cigarette smoke courtesy of Mssrs. Palahniuk and Spanbauer.

Have you read anything good lately? Tell me about it in the comments or I fear I shall be doomed to reread the entire Chronicles of Barsetshire series.