Maybe it has to do with that whole middle school task of creating an identity, or maybe it's actually having a pronounced proclivity: in any case, both my girls have very clearly established literary tastes. And they are aware of these tastes, happy and willing to proclaim them to the point of defiance. Chestnut likes brave girls, historical settings, magic sometimes but not always, virtue, and adventure. And these tastes do, in fact, give a fairly clear sense of her character: earnest and true, sweet and clear-eyed.
Diana, on the other hand, favors absurdity, dark humor, a sinister cast to just about everything, and fantasy—the more ironically complex and meta, the better. And that's just what she's like, too.
Given that they have set these stakes in the ground and drawn these lines in the sand so as to delineate who they are, you would think I could predict what people might read. Yet this is what Chestnut has been carrying around the house, on the subway, to various seders, for the past few weeks:
Here is the first line of the New York Times review of it, by Jonathan Miles: “That’s Not a Feeling,” Dan Josefson’s mordant, cockeyed first novel
about a boarding school in upstate New York, includes, as many fantasy
novels also do, a hand-drawn map of his invented world." And yes, that is a quote from the late, great David Foster Wallace on the cover. Caddie Woodlawn, where are you? You were here just last week!
Here are my fervent pleas (which, of course, fall on the deaf ears of an uncaring universe): Why don't I understand anything? Who are my children, and why do they keep changing on me? Why do I even want them to have fixed identities? Why am I not a better parent? What is the point of it all? etc.
It's not that I am sad that she likes this book. I am…bemused? Befuddled? Confused and uncertain, but maybe that's my identity? Happy, too, because it's pretty great that a person can be willing to leap outside the walls they've used to construct themselves. Perhaps I will take a cue from her, and learn to be open to the world, and to roll with the changes. It's possible, right?