Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Creature Uniquely Designed for Reading

'The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life—one that she slips into during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice past her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs—to be undisturbed while she works out the big questions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others—are met precisely by the act of reading.'
--from What Girls Want, the latest Atlantic Monthly article from the scary-good pen of literary provocateur Caitlin Flanagan. We've been reading her work so closely, for so long and with such interest that we simply can't believe we've never mentioned her here before now. We hope our gentle readers will be merciful in this holiday season, and consider that serious omission to be more misdemeanor than felony. We can't help but wonder what our friend Christine, the former next-gen librarian and savvy arbiter of all things YA (young adult), would make of all this.


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Alex Yates said...

"the need for a secret emotional life" - can't we ALL relate to that line? We all want our own emotional attic/cellar to retreat to for solace and reflection away from scrutiny and judgement. Yet it is so hard to truly achieve without posturing on the off chance that someone may stumble upon our hidden passageway to our vulnerable hideaway. So we always keep things on the front stage expecting people to critique while more often than not, people are too worried about their own performance to care.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that astute comment, Alex. That was one of my chief thoughts also as I read that piece, that a secret emotional life is hardly the sole province of adolescent girls, but of all thinking people, and of course of all serious readers (they're one and the same). I hope readers will follow your link and spend some time poking around your interesting blog.

Anyway, thanks for adding so nicely to the conversation, and have a splendid New Year's eve.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

I agree with both you and Alex, John. As a society, we still try to dress boys in blue and girls in pink. After that, everything becomes a stereotype. (some over-generalization here, but I think it fits when we talk "marketing")

Happy New Year -- Here's to a GREAT 2009! -- Geoff

& from Eleanor as well (who seems to know a lot about secret emotional lives), over at "This Side of Paradise."

At 5:36 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Geoff. Pink has never been my most flattering color, but I'm happy to be considered half female if that's the definition of having an inner life that needs regular feeding through reading good stuff. May 2009 be your breakthrough year, everyone!

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

I will read the AM article in full next week. I am teaching a four-hour course on the "Twilight" series at Lakeland this spring, so thanks for this, John!

At 6:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That sounds like fun, Erin. Lakeland's a pretty inviting place for writers. I'll be there presenting at the next spring writers conference, on March 28th. Anyway, let's be sure to soon share a cup of coffee, or perhaps something stronger, to toast the new year.

At 2:56 AM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

I'm in.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 1:41 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Okay, you got me, Stan. I meant it in the spirit of the phrase "lovely creature" but figured adding that word might stretch the headline beyond the space my software allots for a single line. Contrary to what you may have heard, sometimes even on the web, such cosmetic editorial factors enter into consideration.

And I'm still wondering who you are, Stan. You've said in the past that I know you, but when I asked the only Stan I could think of among my friends & acquaintancea, he said nope. So do please send me an email if you care to clear this up. If not, simply ignore. Either way, I'm pleased to have you as a reader, and doubly pleased that you're occasionally moved to comment.


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