Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Darkness Too Visible?

One of the latest literary brouhahas was instigated by Meghan Cox Gurdon with her June 4, 2011 Wall Street Journal article: Darkness Too Visible She says: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea? Gurdon goes on at some length criticizing a variety of YA novels: Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.

Suffice to say, several of the authors quoted or discussed by Gurdon took offense to being characterized as such. For example Jackie Morse Kessler blogged about it in Making the Darkness Visible. She says To suggest that Rage effectively glamorizes self-injury is both insulting and stupid. The entire purpose of the book — indeed, of all of the Riders of the Apocalypse books — is to raise awareness of issues such as self-injury and eating disorders and bullying.

I have mixed feelings about the issue. I agree with authors like Kessler that raising awareness is important. On the other hand, I've read some YA novels that horrified me and I'm a middle-aged adult. Unfortunately, I guess to some extent, the discussion is moot. Kids today have to grow up much sooner than earlier generations. We can't put the genie back in the bottle.

What do you think?

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