Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Skepticism is not just for adults: Another post about Eoin Colfer and Artemis Fowl

I wrote a few months back about Ken Bruen's jaded view of the Celtic tiger and about other crime writers and their salutary skepticism of economic miracles. I have just learned that kids are getting in on the act, or at least authors who write for them. Here's a passage from Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer:

"Holly set the coordinates to the flight computer, and let the wings do the steering for her. The countryside sped by below. Even since her last visit, the Mud Man infestation seemed to have taken a stronger hold. There was barely an acre of land without dozens of their dwellings digging into its soil, and barely a mile of river without one of their factories pouring its poison into their waters."
I've come to realize something else about Colfer now that I've read three of his novels and am into a fourth. It has to do with the old saw about a comic being someone who says funny things, while a comedian says things funny. Colfer is a comedian. He has a knack for fashioning sentences in such a way that even lines not obviously meant to elicit a laugh are amusing. I hope to build a comment around this fascinating and entertaining subject soon.

In the meantime, don't believe anyone who tells you the Artemis Fowl books are just for kids.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous bookwitch said...

Yes, Peter, it's time more people learn to read more children's books in general. I reckon that once a writer has to learn to go without certain "adult" fillers to make a book child friendly, the book gets a lot better.

Eoin is a master at writing almost anything in an interesting way. I will soon blog on his new book, out next week, which is excellent.

December 27, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

What do you mean by "certain `adult' filler"? Things an author does in a clumsy effort to make a book suitable for children? Or things an author must eliminate when writing for children?

In any case, I have found myself thinking about why the Artemis Fowl books are so interesting, and whether Colfer's young readers are attracted to the same features that draw adult readers. Actually, I wondered that more when I read Half Moon Investigations, where I laughed at the opening page's parody of hard-boiled detectives. No way a kid could get that, I thought, but it didn't matter because the passage is funny enough to work even if one does not get the generic reference.

December 27, 2007  
Anonymous bookwitch said...

What I meant were things like not always very good or interesting love/sex issues, or very bad language, which I reckon most children's books need to go without. Take those away from many adult books and you don't always have a book left. Too many readers of such books like to sneer at my childish behaviour in reading children's books. The writer of adult books can put almost anything they like into their books. The children's authors have to come up with a good book without those adult props, which makes for a better book, in general.
And yes, Half Moon is interesting because it works on two levels, which just shows what a genius Eoin is. Apparently he had to work at his publishers to keep the more grown up stuff in.

December 28, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Yes, I see what you mean. It may be easier to pad an "adult" book than a children's book.

I'd be interested in knowing what sort of grown-up stuff Colfer had to fight for -- and I'd also like to hear what younger readers think of that grown-up stuff. His success may just prove that he's smarter than his publishers and that publishers underestimate children.

I've noticed also that for all Colfer's humor, imagination, the sly fun he has with genre and even the touches of gross humor, his stories have wholesome family messages (OK, I'll grant that I wouldn't want any child around my house acting, eating, or, er, venting like Mulch Diggums). How does he manage gracefully to get so much into relatively short books?

December 28, 2007  
Anonymous bookwitch said...

If I remember correctly, Eoin said it was the references to traditional hardboiled PI fiction that they wanted to remove, on the basis that the children wouldn't get it! But it was left in because it would do no harm... I haven't got the right kind of child to test it on, as mine are VERY intelligent.

And I suspect that's why Eoin does what he does so well. The man's intelligent. And Irish. There's a lot of good stuff coming from Ireland.

I don't think many children want to indulge in Mulch's wind problems, but mentioning them in a book is fun.

December 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I'd like to hear or read Colfer's own account of negotiations over the hardboiled-P.I. references. Even if a child does not get the references, one has to start somewhere. That opening to Half Moon Investigations would make a nice beginning.

"Lunchboxes stripped of everything but fruit"? What child would not love such a reference and get a sense that something funny was going on? Such a child, being intelligent and susceptible, would soon get the idea that Moon is a detective and that that is how detectives talk. Hence, a lot of fun and an introduction to detective stories at the same time. That's called learning, I think.

December 29, 2007  

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