Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Okay for Now: A Counterpoint

As he notes below, Sam dislikes Okay for Now. I don't love it either, but I don't feel as strongly about it as he does.

As Sam mentions, the overarching theme is that Art Can Make Everything Better. In most books with that theme, the "everything" actually has a pretty limited scope, but in this book "everything" really is everything. One boy's artistic awakening saves the spiritual life of an entire town.

In order to parse what Gary Schmidt was trying to do, I think it's instructive to read what he says about the book: "Okay for Now began in the Flint, Michigan, public library, which displays its own lovely copy of Audubon's Birds of America, and which itself affirms, through its many programs and committed librarians, the power of art and story over despair and loss." 

I think the key word in that is "story." This is not reality, it's story. It's not a realistic book about wishes coming true in implausible ways, it's a parable about the way we spin stories in the hopes that one day they will become reality. Gary Schmidt is too good of a writer to throw a luckless kid into a Broadway show, coincidentally attended by his hero, Joe Pepitone, without having a good reason for it. And though, personally, I don't think that part of the book works very well, I do think Schmidt is playing by his own rules. In story, anything can happen, so why not this? 

I find Perry Nodelman's thoughts on the subject interesting as well. 

It reminds me of Dickens, in a way. Poor, abused kid succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. And there's screaming. 

1 comment:

  1. I won't add too much, but as we were discussing earlier, I don't feel that -- outside maybe of Schmidt's notes, which aren't part of the book proper -- the book sets itself up as parable, or as story. The switch comes too far in for me, and requires changing too many gears.

    But that's just another of our wonderful disagreements ;)