Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Just a little patience


I've been carrying this book around for a very long time - I'm guessing about 7 years now - and it's been making me feel incredibly guilty. The other night, though, in a fit of angry, insomnia-induced reading, I picked it up and I'm happy I did.

I have to say this book embodies something I miss about tomes written 80+ years ago: patience. Grahame doesn't hurry things too much; on the contrary, he lingers (dare I say it?) lovingly over the words, all of which are entirely apropos and well-placed.

Another thing: this was written back when kids' books authors weren't labouring under the current/North American assumption that sprogs are basically idiots. The words are big and the sentences very often display subordinate clauses. Crazy, I know. This book presupposes a readerly vocabulary I fear is much rarer these days than it was in 1908.

But about the story, or to be more precise, stories. The Wind in the Willows contains episodic tales of Rat, Mole, Badger, and Toad, some of which are connected and some of which are not. The stories about Toad tend to be connected and feature an early foray into the post-modern art of the intervention: Toad is addicted to driving, but he's a very bad driver, and so accidents and various other disasters invariably ensue. His friends try to cure him by locking him up in his house and watching him constantly until he gets it out of his system. Like any addict worth his salt, however, Toad escapes and engages in a really big driving binge which results in incarceration...but still, he's incorrigible! More hi jinx ensue but I won't reveal them here. Not-really-joking aside, the Toad stories are an interesting look at the privileges that come with class and the enabling by others that allows for.

Of the other stories, one in particular really stood out for me: "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn". This tale had a sort of a pre-Narnia magical Narnia feel to it, but was much better done than anything of C.S. Lewis's, I thought.

The Wind in the Willows was a nice book and the problem with nice books is that they're not so exciting. And not so exciting books don't make for exciting blog reviews. Nice books do, however, make for nice relaxing reading and I'm happy to have that right now, thank you very much. When I get to reading my fat Victorian novels I'm just going to be outraged at unfairness to women, children, and the lower classes all the time - so I'd better take my few and far between serenity reads while I can.

3 comments:

Rohan Maitzen said...

Another thing: this was written back when kids' books authors weren't labouring under the current/North American assumption that sprogs are basically idiots. The words are big and the sentences very often display subordinate clauses. Crazy, I know.

Yes, yes, yes! I am so frustrated by the cult of 'age appropriate' reading that limits vocabulary and sentences to the minimum level presumed to be suitable for children. At my children's school they are obsessed with "just right books," meaning (seriously) a book in which no more than 10% of the words are unfamiliar. How is a kid supposed to reach an adult vocabulary at that rate? My own observation is that as a result, my daughter is rapidly frustrated by books she decides are "too hard" for her. I also recently reread a series of 'young adult' books that were favourites of my own and not only do they have complex sentences but they assume (crazy again) that a teenager might be interested in a book focused on someone learning to be a classical pianist.... Sigh.

Yuri... said...

Your paraphrasing of Toad's situation brings to mind the drawing in my childhood edition of The WITW - Toad jouncing along a rutted country road in his vintage roadster displaying utter glee and abandon...utter indulgence before the the bill arrives!

Thanks for the smile this morning Colleen :)

DreamQueen said...

10%?? That's horrifying, and I don't even have kids or teach anymore. Who are these people making such short-sighted decisions about education and what is wrong with them?