Regular readers of this blog know that I read novels as often as most of us visit our friendly dentist: Not very often! I’ve admitted to all of you that I try, but it’s about like some TV commentator, after I got to play Tiger Woods at Augusta, saying “Good effort Scot.” I just simply fail every time. But, I now make my second admission about novels:
I read novels vicariously by reading biographies (or autobiographies) about novel writers. For awhile, after reading a biography of a novelist, I’d buy a novel or two and promise myself that I’d read it. It was like playing Tiger. It didn’t happen.
But, I still read biographies and I experience some of the novels through the biographer. I’m reading right now a marvelous study of Hans Christian Andersen (H.C. Anderson for those in the know) by Jackie Wullschlager called Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller (AA Knopf, 2001). Because we are going to Denmark late this week, I thought I might prepare myself by reading the biographies of two Danes: H.C. Andersen and S. Kierkegaard (by A. Hannay).
What an odd duck Andersen was! And Wullschlager seems intent on bringing the odd dimensions of his personality out as fully as possible. Still, he was a genius storyteller. I love this comment of Wullschlager on Andersen’s capacity to report about his travels with accuracy: “But he was too much of a poet for his rendition and views of his surroundings to be completely correct, and had too strong an imagination for his observations on himself to be reliable” (126). Ever the storyteller, Andersen remembered his storied impressions … why let the facts get in the way?!
Doesn’t The Emperor’s New Clothes excoriate hypocrisy and pomposity about as well as anything you’ve read? Because it is written for children there is a simplicity, humor, and brevity about the story, but it reminds me of other stories intent on exposing hypocrisy — like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. Of course, not so grave either.
My questions: Does anyone know if he is now considered a good read for children? Or is he verboten these days? Too dark? Any other thoughts by those who have read him?