You might think, if you know me from reading Pink Me, that I am a children's or teen librarian. I'm not - at my system we are all generalists. So while I love fixing kids up with great books, the fact is I also enjoy helping grownups. I spend most of my time drumming up copies of just the right David Baldacci, or helping readers find Amish romance novels and car repair manuals.
Which, um... Amish romance novels? Right. I'm going to need a finding aid for that.
So I am a little bit of a sucker for books about books. I need me some shortcuts, because maybe I've read one book by Chuck Palahniuk (Diary), and one book by Ian McEwan (ok, zero - I thought that thing with the bus crash was his but that was Russell Banks), but I just - I've been reading mostly kids' books for ten years.
Enter Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto. Ostensibly a super-snarky, jokey-judgey book about whether you want to sleep with a guy you meet in a bar who has read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (he'll have great taste in music at least), it's ALSO a jam-packed cheat sheet of all the salient facts and discussion points about Don DeLillo, Tao Lin, Sarah Vowell, Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Roth, Updike, Chekhov, and a lot more.
- What's the real difference between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy? In 250 words or less? Lauren Leto can tell you, bless her.
- What will happen to your kid if you read her Eloise? She'll move to NYC and be spotted on The Sartorialist.
- Five-word sum-up of The Sound and the Fury? "Dilsey saved all their asses."
- You think you should read Jonathan Safran Foer but you don't want to? Read Tristram Shandy instead. Oh LAUREN. Mwah!
And she can tell you because she's READ all this stuff. She read Vonnegut when she was too old for it, she reads Janet Evanovich on planes. She didn't make it through at least one David Foster Wallace novel, so that makes her even more like the rest of us.
Now, if my appreciation of Judging a Book by Its Lover (I'm probably going to buy it, I'm going to need it) reveals me to be not nearly as well-read as people think I am, this next book is going to show that I don't know nearly as much about the mechanics of literature as you might expect from a person who writes upwards of a hundred book reviews a year.
That's right. Over a hundred a year. Since 2008. No wonder my eyes are shot.
I requested an advance review copy of Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice by Catherine Lewis from Edelweiss purely because Joost Swarte was listed as the illustrator. His dapper, precise, jokey cartoons are half Krazy Kat, half Hergé. I love him. My free-associating mind hears the melodic, pell-mell piano solo from an old The The song when I look at his drawings. Probably because that pianist was Jools Holland and their names are similar, but the mood is the same. If you want to know what I mean, click here and forward to 2:40.
Ok yes, the book.
TURNS OUT the book is an illustrated glossary of literary forms and devices that uses the tale of the Three Blind Mice to act out each lesson. Oh man is it fun!
Click on these pages and blow 'em up, it's worth it, I promise. Concise, no? And witty?The whole book's like that: Flashback, Dialect, examples of Third Person Omniscient vs. Third Person Objective/Reportorial, Ambiguity, Intertextuality, Fable, Fairy Tale and Farce are all given the MOUSE TREATMENT.
Fancy foreign words like Bildungsroman, Deus ex Machina, and Roman a Clef are first mocked, then acted out. We get an idea of whether indirect character presentation is going to be as satisfying as direct.
And that "Snip of the Tale" pull-out is on every page, summing up the lesson learned in precise, English-teacher terms. Invaluable.
PLUS: Pathetic fallacy is defined as "The name given to your metaphors when they suck."
All this and jazzy, Spy-vs-Spy Joost Swarte illustrations too. SOLD.