30 January 2009

“Typically Overconfident Generalization”

Seth Lerer's Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award (motto: "Like the National Book Award, except that it sells even fewer books.")

Perry Nodelman isn't happy. To quote:

Towards the end of the book, Lerer refers to Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit in order to announce the typically overconfident generalization that “the boys of much contemporary literature are artists of the game” (315). Lerer goes on to enthuse about the “a vertiginous quality of bullshit, a thrill that the bullshitter gets of making up the details, forming a persona, raising expectations,” and he includes himself among the boys who indulge in it: “we can feel almost an ecstasy in our own imagination” (316). In the light of this book’s wild theorizing woven out of a surprisingly limited number of texts and verifiable facts, I have to conclude that Lerer found putting it together to be a thrilling experience.