Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Terrific! I'm Not Lying.


I'm not lying.

And I'm no chump in saying so.

Perhaps I should just leave it at that and hope you have the good sense to buy and read the book, if you haven't already.

Everyone should.

OKAY FOR NOW deserves the Newbery Award --- not a Newbery Honor, but the award, in my humble opinion.

And my opinion is humble, but it better be accurate in this case. I have to warn you, I have Christopher Swieteck waiting in the wings to do some arm-twisting.

This is a book about family --- mostly, the Swieteck family --- and community --- mostly Marysville ---, and the institutions --- like the library and Audubon's collection in it, the local deli, the dream of Broadway, the military, the nearest professional sports team, the schools, the police department --- that flesh the people who occupy them out and make them better or, in some cases, worse.

It is about the dynamics of art and sensitivity over against rationality's often heavy hand and stifling effect in ordinary life.

It is about the way things of the heart affect things of the mind and vice versa; it is about people, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, sensitive and not.

It is a love story about Doug and Lil and lost art and so so much more.

It is well fleshed out, nicely sketched, colored almost to perfection. But not overdone.

It has wings as light as feathers and it takes flight. And soars into the heavens.

Hasn't almost everyone as a child or youth been cast into a new environment, whether in a move to a new town, going off to a new school, or finding oneself with different people in a new family configuration? Then there is the resulting disorientation, the inherent fear and anxiety. This is what happens to Doug Swieteck, Gary D. Schmidt's protagonist in his latest novel. How will Doug fare? How will be affected by the new people and institutions in his life? How will they? The narrative of the story provides the answers to these questions.

Although, perhaps I shouldn't have read this book just when I did --- while my wife is suffering chronic cancer --- or the way I did --- reading it out loud, I'm so glad I did. But, I must say, it's very hard to read aloud in an emotional storm, seeing words blur on the page through a stream of fluid flowing from your eyes.

I was born a few years before the protagonist of this adventure. I loved reminiscing, visiting the past's sights and sounds and events portrayed in the story, wallowing in it, reminiscing in my own private way. After all, I have my own Lil with whom I share a love for great art and literature. And life.