Friday, October 29, 2010

Orson Scott Card.

Todd and I went to hear his favorite author, Orson Scott Card, speak at Christopher Newport University last night. Card has written approximately a bajillion books, most of which Todd owns. Todd's favorite is Ender's Game, which was the first book he gave me to read while we were dating. I'm not a particular fan of Card's, but I have read four or five of his books, and liked a couple of them, but science fiction is just not my genre. Card has also written some historical novels about Biblical women and the early Mormon church, of which he's a member.

Card is great at public speaking; he's taught writing classes and lectured for years, so he has his repertoire of funny stories well-polished and he had the audience in the palm of his hand. It took me a little longer to warm up to him because he crapped all over my very favorite childhood book in the first three minutes of his talk! I was shooting eye daggers at him, but he was oblivious to their power. (The book was Julie Andrews' Mandy--he also crapped all over her acting ability. Card is an opinionated guy.)

Since his first young adult novel is coming out next month, the rough topic was writing for children--is it different from writing for adults? Should it be different? Card's argument was "no," and he launched into a list of books he loved as a child to help prove his point, books that were not written explicitly for children but which children have often loved for decades. This was where I started to warm back up to him, because it's obvious that he was a voracious--and precocious--child reader, and I was, too.

He remarked on the way that children sift through the themes and topics that are over their heads and just zero in on the story, and the way that children often learn new words, but not how to pronounce them, so that years later they learn they've been mispronouncing it all along, which was certainly true of me and of Todd, and many other kids I know who were reading well above their grade level.

His point was that a dedicated reading child can sift through a lot of what he called "twaddle," that adults won't put up with, because kids want a good story above all else and haven't learned to become impatient and jaded about books. And I know that was true of me--I vacuumed it all up, good and bad, when I was a kid.

But of course, what kids most need is a good story, just as adults are looking for a good story. He made an interesting comment that even people who don't read are still looking for stories, that we all seek out stories, even if it's just in gossiping with our friends. We all want to know what makes people act the way they do and some of us find that in books, some in other places.
And children not only want to find out what makes other people act the way they do, but also what makes them who they are, and who they might turn into.

So it was a fun lecture. I love hearing people talk about books they loved as children. I just love hearing people talk about books, period. He took questions from the audience afterwards, and that led to more discussion of his own writing and his own books, which Todd particularly liked. Then there was a book-signing, and although Todd did bring his battered paperback of Ender's Game (price on the cover: $3.50!) we were far back in the line and calculated it would take at least two hours to reach the front. So we took off. I suspect Todd will begin re-reading his Card collection once again--but we were both amused that a writer who is so opinionated about other people's bad writing was responsible for one of the worst books either of us has ever read, the execrable Empire. I guess we all have our blind spots!