Friday, January 14, 2005

The moral nature of books

The current issue of World Literature Today includes responses to Marc Aronson's article "Does Children's Literature Matter?" which in view of Helena's ever-changing relationship with books provoked some thoughts. Here's a sampling of the letters:

While Aronson goes on to argue that authors have a responsibility to children to get social and historical matters right, and correctly so, it strikes me as more important that a work be, in that most elusive sense of the word, true . . . How is the author’s "responsibility to children" any different than his responsibility to adults?

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If writers are "the engineers of souls," as Stalin said, then they’d better build morally good, politically correct books — or else. We have zero tolerance for badly built planes. Conversely, if we believe in the freedom of writers as artists, then the moral nature of their books (whether for children or adults) and the political lessons they imply are quite separate from their value: what counts is whether they’re good literature. The jury’s out on whether reading good literature makes us — or our children — better people.

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