Thursday, 24 November 2011

"Charlie's Trips" & its future place in YA literature

Let’s suppose that the book is a commercial success, what will be its place among the so many literary classics for the young? We can ask ourselves this question when we think that the book is also a disaster story, showing more than one natural disaster when, for instance, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz shows only one – that famous tornado that catches little Dorothy and takes her somewhere else. Charlie’s Trips, which first can be seen as a sci-fi version of Baum’s work, also contains many subtitled comments about our society, targeting some of the American strongest values, when most of the best-known children and teenage classics don’t do that, when they’re pure entertaining pieces of literature, with no other ambition to make the reader feel good about himself and the society he’s part of. This is also the main aim of Charlie’s Trips, as well as the one of being a little caustic and unserious about all these values. The book doesn’t show any villain, any eccentric character the kid hero would have to struggle again. The only eccentric elements showed in the book are those famous  values (religion, television, army, marriage, etc.) we’re so fond of and dependent on.

I wrote Charlie’s Trips as a film script before turning it into a book after realizing that it could be possible – the script was way too long, over 200 pages – and after the project was turned down by Daniel Radcliffe’s agent in London. The result is, in my opinion the book is very close to Roald Dahl’s works, from a stylistic aspect, much more than it is to any other teenage book. No, this is a little dishonest – I have to admit, I haven’t read most of those novels, I still haven’t read Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, I still haven’t read J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, I still haven’t read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and any of her other teenage classics, such as Rumble Fish or Tex, I still haven’t even read The Wizard of Oz and I have very few, vague memories of the legendary film! I still haven’t read Alice in Wonderland or Charlotte’s Web or Gulliver’s Travels either, I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books and you know what? I’m more than glad I didn’t read any of all these, because it allowed me to stay away from their influences and not to compete with them. And, even if I haven’t read any of these classics, I know about their plots and I know for sure that none of them includes science-fiction or describes futuristic environments. You’re going to laugh, but I also haven’t read any of the Lord of the Rings books, which belong to the fantasy genre. The only classic for the young I knew about very well before I started writing Charlie’s Trips, was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (one of my favorite books). The influence is quite clear – I reused the same first name, notably – and the narrative style is similar, rather minimalist, lacking any psychological consideration and issue, just like in Roald Dahl’s lovely book, but it’s still very different and distinctive. In Charlie’s Trips, the lack of psychological content can be explained by the ‘new’ nature of its main character, who totally lost his past, he can’t remember any of it and has no other choice than look forward – and his ability is quite limited. Such a character is a good enough reason to use minimalist narrative, to stick to the dialog and action and to deliver everything with this – in the end we have a book that is a fun and very quick read.

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