The New Yorker Picks Richard Locke's Critical Children

Richard Locke, Critical ChildrenThe New Yorker‘s blog Goings On recently selected Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels as a “Book Pick.” From the review:

In “Critical Children,” Richard Locke’s analysis of the central role that children play in ten classic novels, the author explores a hundred and thirty years of literature and the lives of some of the most iconic characters in the canon—Tom Sawyer, Oliver Twist, Holden Caulfield, and Lolita, to name a few. “It’s remarkable,” writes Locke, “that so many classic (or, let’s say, unforgotten) English and American novels should focus on children and adolescents not as colorful minor characters but as the intense center of attention.”

Locke, the former editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and now a professor of writing at Columbia University, writes passionately and persuasively about his subjects—and the result is finely tuned literary criticism that is both accessible and engaging. Proceeding chronologically from Dickens to Roth, Locke concludes with Alexander Portnoy, the eponymous narrator of “Portnoy’s Complaint.” He writes that the character “is not a wise child so much as a wised-up child, a comic performer who gets us to laugh at what he sees and how he sees it and who he is—a super-virtuosic unreliable narrator who finally just gives up and screams like an enraged schoolboy.”

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