Saturday, October 07, 2006

Octavian Nothing

If you haven't read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation (Volume 1: The Pox Party), you should check out the online reviews to try and get an idea of the scope of this amazing story. Beyond Anderson's talent with a turn of phrase, what I find most remarkable about his achievement here is his use of character. Octavian starts as a blank slate in such a unique position that readers are allow to "imprint" with his perspective...and yet he becomes an individual drawn to a depth that many writers aspire to and will never achieve.

The issue of whether it "stands alone" will of course come up in award again I ask: where is that in the Newbery criteria?


Blogger KT said...

It's in Point 3 of the terms:

"The committee in its deliberations is to consider only the books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms."

Meaning, if a book under consideration is one of a sequence, you can not bring previously published books in the same sequence into the discussion.

Readers who haven't read earlier books in the sequence should get the same enjoyment out of the book that readers who have read the earlier ones get.

And there are plenty Newbery winners and honor books that were part of a sequence: Ginger Pye, The High King, The Grey King, The Hero and the Crown, Dicey's Song, Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, A Wrinkle in Time, etc. etc. Presumably, these Newbery Committees decided that the books stood alone.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Nina Lindsay said...

Yes, though it doesn't technically follow that, since committee members can't discuss other books in the series, that all readers should derive the same enjoyment, or that the book should stand alone. I suspect that it becomes effectively impossible to get a committee to agree that the book is "distinguished" in "delineation of plot...character" otherwise...but I'm so intrigued by the problem that we might just try it at the Mock Newbery for purposes of public experiment.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Tupion said...

What about Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen? This book is connected tangentially to Wendelin's "Sammy Keyes" books, but stands very much on it's own. It's stayed in my mind ever since I read the manuscript last year.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Monica Edinger said...

I just finished this and it is truly a remarkable work. I think it stands alone just fine, but Newbery? Seems older to me.

1:57 AM  
Blogger donald said...

I agree with Monica. The language, form, and even some of the ideas are more for older readers. Certainly there are 13 and 14 year olds who will get this, but I feel the book was written for more sophisticated readers and they will be the ideal audience. And it certainly stands alone, since we we definitely got to the end of one phase of O's life. There may be more "delineation of character" in sequels, but O already stands out as one of the most original characters I've read in quite a while....and the plot(s) is notably unique as well.

4:17 PM  

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