A Note from Me (August 7, 2020)

Dear friends: 

It’s the first week of August, and thus we remember eternal Friend of the Horn Book Natalie Babbitt, not because it is her birthday but for Tuck Everlasting’s enduring opening line, “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” I sure would love to know what Natalie, dry-witted but warmhearted, would make of this summer, this year, this regime.... She was never short of opinions, that one, and the Horn Book is lucky that she chose to share many of them in our pages. If any members of the 1976 Newbery committee are reading this, I’d love to know what happened to Tuck in your deliberations. I won’t tell a soul. 

When I was trying to get this letter out last week without the help of Cindy, away in the Poconos, I made two mistakes. First, the Christopher Morley book is called Parnassus on Wheels, not The Book Caravan (which was the name of the Horn Book’s shop-on-wheels; here, read the diary). And I misquoted my math teacher friend Lori, who said “we don’t know” to my question about whether prime numbers formed a pattern, not whether there are any even numbers among the primes. Because everybody but stupid me knows the only even prime number is TWO. My relationship with math is more aspirational than actual, like those English professors of a generation ago who fell for Alan Sokal

I said we could talk about diegetic music this week, although I fear that my understanding of the term might be something like my understanding of prime numbers. But it means music and sounds that the characters in a movie can hear, rather than the score, which is for the audience’s ears alone. Cabaret is the only movie musical I can think of in which all the music is diegetic, that is, performed and heard by the characters as well as by us. Cool, yes? I was thinking about the concept again while we were watching the (pretty good) new UFO movie The Vast of Night, whose great score unfortunately interferes with the story, in which two teens are Hearing Things. I couldn’t always tell if the Things were aliens or the score. (Listen to enough Messiaen and that will happen to you, too.) 

Having finished The Day of the Jackal, I think my next novel will be Ripley Under Ground — we just watched Purple Noon, which was based on the first Ripley novel but, while starring a beautiful Alain Delon as the sociopath, was way less homoerotic than the book or the later Matt Damon version. I hate when that happens, don’t you? 



Roger Sutton
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.
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GraceAnne DeCandido

Rising from 100+ days of pandemic and 55 hours of no electricity due to downed trees, I am reminded by this charming Roger note of the Memorial Day weekend TheInfomancer and I spent listening to two (or was it three?) Messiaen organ recitals at St Thomas Church. We decided we had heard enough Messiaen for the rest of our lives.

Posted : Aug 07, 2020 09:37

Roger Sutton

One thing I love most about Catholicism is the EXCESS.

Posted : Aug 07, 2020 09:37

Ms. Frankie Moore

I read "Parnassus on Wheels" way back, probably in the late sixties or early 70's. My aunt, whose namesake I am, married a man in the publishing business (I think Dutton). Every Christmas she would mail us books, and I remember being disappointed that she never gave us popular books. I think they may have been what we called "remainders" when I worked in a bookstore right out of college. "Parnassus on Wheels" is one of the few books I remember, in addition to "Where to Tilly Turtle" by Eunice Young Smith. I still have it. I love reading your newsletters. Thank you for what you do.

Posted : Aug 07, 2020 04:54

Roger Sutton

I'm taking a little break then trying THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP. Thanks!

Posted : Aug 07, 2020 04:54


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