Monday, May 28, 2007

Just Read: The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater

I finished this book exactly a week ago; I haven't managed to read all of anything since then (though I've read substantial chunks of two novels and pieces of several others, plus about a third of The 2006 What Color is Your Parachute), due to some minor distractions in my life, too trivial to mention.

But I'm hoping that, by writing about The Neddiad, and clearing out the tiny backlog in "Just Read," I'll be able to move forward and get back up on that horse. (Let's see if it works that way.)

This is the new novel by Daniel Pinkwater, one of the living legends of YA fiction (author of the sublime Young Adult Novel, the two great "Snarkout Boys" books, and many more), and, in many ways, it's a standard Pinkwater book: a young hero (we're not told that he's fat...but, then again, we're not told that he isn't, either) travels to interesting places, meets odd people who teach him new and exciting things, and saves the world in a quirky way without there having been a heck of a lot of tension along the way.

This time, it's essentially a historical novel, set soon after WWII in Los Angeles. Pinkwater seems to be turning to fictionalizing his own childhood in recent years; his last novel (The Education of Robert Nifkin, a somewhat more ambitious, though shorter, novel in the form of a college entrance essay), also seemed to be based on his own life. I wonder if that means that he's mostly writing books for people like me now -- readers who discovered him when they were young adults, but aren't young any more. I do hope he is still finding new, young readers, because he's just the kind of writer that smart, oddball kids (and who else is haunting the YA shelves of the libraries of America?) can really need and use.

I wouldn't start reading Pinkwater here; either Robert Nifkin or the books in the two omnibus editions of his work (Five Novels and Four Fantastic Novels) are better introductions. The Neddiad is decent Pinkwater, but it's slightly thin Pinkwater, the Pinkwaterian equivalent of a minor Philip K. Dick novel like We Can Build You -- the motifs are familiar, and fascinating to the initiated, but they're not handled as well as they are in many of his other books. But, for those who've read Pinkwater before, this is a very welcome return to the kind of world and people that we know well and are very happy to see again.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Minor distractions! :(

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