“[C]hildren often prefer the factual over the fantastical. And a growing body of work suggests that when it comes to storybooks, they also learn better from stories that are realistic. For example, preschool-aged children are more likely to learn new facts about animals when the animals are portrayed realistically as opposed to anthropomorphically.” Two new studies suggest that where learning is concerned, realism trumps fantasy in children’s books. Which is as good a time as any to ask our own Jacob Lambert‘s question: Are picture books leading our children astray?
“According to David Means and his debut novel, Hystopia, [classic war novels] aren’t simply about confronting the horrors of war, but also about concealing them, hiding them under a layer of rationalizations and wishful thinking that often simplifies their lawless anarchy and finds sense, meaning and purpose where there’s little.” Over at Electric Lit, Simon Chandler reviews David Means’s Hystopia.
Ben Lerner has a story [subscription required] in this week's New Yorker that, like his debut novel Leaving the Atocha Station, features a protagonist named The Author. The magazine interviewed Lerner about the invitation to blur his fiction with his autobiography. He says that his work in an exercise in "activating those questions in peculiar ways—but the questions, not the answers, are what strike me as interesting."
Happy almost-Thanksgiving to our American readers! To celebrate, why not whip up a nice bowl of Everyone Get the Hell Out of of the Kitchen Right Now Before I Kill All of You Cranberry-Orange Dressing and pray that none of your other recipes have mistakes in them.
New this week: Karen Russell's new collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove; buzzed-about thriller The Dinner by Herman Koch; Harvest by Jim Crace; Fight Song by Joshua Mohr; the final novel of the late Maeve Binchy, A Week in Winter; Tara Conklin's debut The House Girl; and James Lasdun's non-fiction Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked.
Does modern China need its own literary sub-genre? On trying to understand China's "ultra-unreal" reality: "If Magic Realism was the way in which Latin American authors presented their view of their reality, then Ultra-Unreal Realism should be our name for the literature through which the Chinese regard their reality. The Chinese word 'chaohuan' (ultra-unreal) is something of a play on the word 'mohuan' (magic), as in 'mohuan xianshizhuyi' (magic realism)— 'mohuan' is 'magical unreal,' and 'chaohuan' is 'surpassing the unreal.'”