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NYC with a Cherry on top

Back from New York, where I spent Saturday morning at Bank Street College talking about book reviewing with my sisters at SLJ (Luann Toth), Kirkus (Vicky Smith), and the New York Times (Sarah Harrison Smith). We talked about numbers of books (too many), lengths of books (too long) and the thinking involved in matching the right reviewer to the right book. With Jenny Brown serving as our agreeable moderator, it was fun. (And, as a bonus, Victoria Stapleton was there and cleared up some–SOME–of my confusion about Netgalley).

The night before we went to see the new production of The Glass Menagerie with Cherry Jones and Zach Quinto. While I remember watching the 1973 TV adaptation with Katharine Hepburn, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on stage before. Oh, this feels like heresy, but I was underwhelmed. Cherry and Zach as Wingfield mere et fils were vigorous and while the director seemed intent on mining the humor of the play, rather than going all wispy, it seemed to me like the play itself is better as wisp than as comedy. And the  Laura, Celia Keenan Bolger, was too quiet. Perhaps that is the point, but, like, I couldn’t hear her. Much better the next night was Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir. Funny and sad and horrifying at once.

In between we saw the new Art Spiegelman exhbit at the Jewish Museum, and the Mauritshuis show at the Frick. They could not have been more different–the Spiegelman seemed to have everything but his Horn Book cover (throw us a bone, Art!) while the Frick show contained just fifteen paintings, fourteen in one room and Girl With a Pearl Earring on its own (which it needed, given that the crowd around it was five deep when we were there). The show also includes Fabritius’s The Goldfinch (pictured), central image in Donna Tartt’s new novel of the same name. MY Dutch Golden Age bestseller is going to be Still, Life With Five Apricots (Ain’t So Bad).

I’m reading the Tartt now, on Elizabeth’s recommendation; she says it’s the best book she’s read this year. I’m only about a quarter of the way in (and really enjoying myself), but what is striking me right now is how much it, in outline, seems like any number of juvenile evergreens (and bestsellers): odd boy orphaned finds a talisman that leads him to a magic shop. Will the resemblances continue?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. I’m listening to The Goldfinch (in preparation for the audiobook course I’m teaching in the spring) and at the moment it just seems long. And the narrator, though very good, doesn’t sound young enough. Maybe that will work itself out over the next 26 discs.

  2. Angela Reynolds says:

    Thom, I found “The Goldfinch” long as well, but attributed this to the fact that I usually read picture books, YA, or middle grade fiction, and thus think that all books should just go ahead and Get To The Point. I wish I lived close enough to New York to go see this exhibit, though, because the book did make me want to see the painting!

  3. Angela, I’m going to stick it out. I was attributing my impatience to the inherently slower pace of narration, but I expect that your ideas about our reading patterns play a role, too. I guess I had better go get in the car.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    That’s how I’m feeling about the audio edition of Stephen King’s 11/22/63. The narrator is very good but I’m running out of patience, and miles to go . . . .

  5. I liked Donna Tart’s first book, couldn’t get through the second, so now what do I do about a third book? Read or not? Though I do like adult books with young main characters, which this sounds as if it might have from what you’re saying here.

  6. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Gail, this is the only one I’ve read, but I’m loving it. The story is related as a flashback from a twenty-something to perhaps a decade before.

  7. Angela Reynolds says:

    Gail, read it for the surprising plot twists! I did enjoy it, I just wanted ti to move a little faster (the character often gets stuck in a rut, and the reader, frustratingly I found, gets stuck there as well.)

  8. Roger–I read once that adult characters recalling childhood experiences through their adult knowledge/viewpoint is a hallmark of an adult book while in children’s/ YA books the child characters are in the midst of living the child/YA experience. What’s interesting about the situation you describe is that the twenty-something character isn’t THAT much older than her/his youthful self whose experience s/he’s recalling.

    I like plot twists, Angela. I’ll give this a try at some point.

  9. Could you let us know what Victoria said about Netgalley?

    Also, I’m listening to The Goldfinch and enjoying it very much. Since I listen to a lot of Victorian novels I’m very comfortable with the length. Some books do seem padded these days, but not this one. In fact, having recently listened to David Cooperfield, this feels very much in that tradition — retrospective (David is looking back as is Theo), full of earthy and rich characters, great settings, etc. I’m still in Vegas with Theo and have no idea where the book is going, but so far it does seem very Dickensian to me (as some reviewers have noted).

  10. Sheila Welch says:

    Hello Roger,

    I’m wondering how to get in touch with Elizabeth Poe and hope there’s some way you could send me her address or e-mail. Her article in the September/October issue of The Horn Book was lovely, and her experience reading to her mother was similar to mine.

    Thank you,

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