Monday, June 12, 2006

Christina Stead's "The Man Who Loved Children"

The latest excerpt from Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel--see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for previous installments--takes on The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead.

The novel defies easy summary, so please click here to read Smiley's essay.

And after you do, consider what the poet Randall Jarrell wrote in an introduction to the book: "If all mankind had been reared in orphan asylums for a thousand years, it could learn to have families again by reading The Man Who Loved Children."

What!? I took away from Smiley's account a sense that the family in the novel was so screwed up that it might well have been constitued by people who grew up in very poorly-run orphan asylums.

Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, is an admirer of the novel: "This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century. I carry it in my head the way I carry childhood memories; the scenes are of such precise horror and comedy that I feel I didn't read the book so much as live it."

For a brief biography of Stead click here.

--Marshal Zeringue