The country’s oldest family-owned and operated bookstore, Warwick’s, located in beautiful La Jolla, opened its doors to scholars and enthusiasts of children’s literature on February 23rd by hosting Dr. Jerry Griswold as he presented the revised edition of Audacious Kids: The Classic American Children’s Story.
After a humorous anecdote about his time living in Ireland (and having the good fortune to immediately fall in with the “wrong crowd”*), Dr. Griswold thanked attendees for coming out and supporting the local independent bookstore, who uses the extra $1.25 that you save on Amazon to bring wonderful author events such as this one to locals.
After that welldeserved jab at Amazon, Dr. Griswold proceeded to introduce his new book, a revised and expanded version of the 1992 one entitled, Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America’s Classic Children’s Books. He joked that it’s really “an old book with improved writing” since over the years he’s become a better writer. ;)
He quickly reviewed his arguments on the twelve classic American stories that he focuses and expands on in his book, such as Huckelberry Finn’s river ride as a dream narrative, San Diego as the golden land of Oz, and the importance of Jo cutting her hair in Little Women (I especially can't wait to read this one!).
The book also has three new parts added to it, including the reception of the book, the history before and after “the Golden Age,” and a bibliography of scholarly work that directly responded to the original Audacious Kids or the topics discuss within it.
Dr. Griswold mentioned his joy at seeing a half page review in The New York Times for the book when it first came out and the letter he got from his hero, Leslie Fiedler. He also mentioned the “jerk from Montana” who gave him a book review which was basically akin to: “This is what I would have done if I were writing this book, but he didn't do any of those things!”
But among the good reviews were phrases such as “impressive,” “trail blazing,” and “groundbreaking.” It was the first book of its kind that included “scholarly analysis that is readable, enjoyable, and clear,” encouraging a range of audiences to pick it up. But don't take our word for it; there are four pages of praise for the original book in this edition, so you can take their word instead.
To top the night off, Dr. Griswold read a few pages from the chapter entitled, “Ur of the Ur-Stories: Tarzan of the Apes,” wherein he explores the question: why is Tarzan the greatest popular creation of all time? Perhaps something in the rites of the Dum-Dum speak to the inner Tarzan in us all, leading us back to the Darwinian dream and our hairy ancestors.
The book was originally conceived from a question that was asked during one of Dr. Griswold’s children's literature classes: “How come all these kids are orphans?”
Indeed, many of the famous American children’s stories are filled with kids without parents, but why do these stories appeal to readers so much? Dr. Griswold stated coming of age stories require a character to separate from parents, and being an orphan resolves the issue of guilt that would come up in that scenario. Not only this, but America itself is seen as an orphan since its separation from the United Kingdom. It gained its own independent identity and moved on. This is the value that is predominantly shown in American children’s stories.
After the Q&A session, Dr. Griswold invited all attendees, including current and former SDSU professors and students, to join him at Hennessey’s for a night of further literary discussion. Though in all honesty, we went because we wanted to hear more stories from Ireland and other incredibly exciting tales of being an English professor and a children’s literature scholar. We really cannot repeat these tales on the blog, so we highly recommend befriending Dr. Jerry Griswold and asking him to get a drink in an Irish pub around you. Hint: Make sure they have the “Green Spot.”
* Definition of “the wrong crowd”: The people who know where the after-hours bars are in Ireland; the people who know where the after-hours, after-hours bars are in Ireland; the people who respond to being told, “We don't encourage dancing” by saying, “Don't worry. We don't need encouragement.”
P.S. I wonder if the jerk from Montana ever wrote that book he so desperately wanted to read…