12 January 2010

The Storm in the Barn as a Fable

Last Friday I wrote, “I see The Storm in the Barn as a fable that’s set in the Dust Bowl,” which prompted Monica Edinger at Educating Alice to write:

As for me, a fable points to a specific moralistic message and I don’t get that with [Matt] Phelan’s story.
I don’t think that’s the meaning Phelan had in mind when he chose the term “fable” to describes his book, as in this exchange from a November interview with Comic Book Resources:
CBR News: Matt, you’ve described “The Storm in the Barn” as a fable - why do you find that particular word appropriate for your book?

MATT PHELAN: I just checked with Merriam-Webster online and saw that their definition includes the phrase “a legendary story of supernatural happenings,” which works well for my purposes. In my mind, a fable also denotes a smaller, quieter tale than a Myth or Legend. I was hoping “The Storm in the Barn” would have that sort of feel to it.
Many other reviewers have used the same term, including: Which is not to say that the term “fable” comes without pitfalls, especially when authors take that approach to major historical events. Three years ago, another historically set book expressly labeled a fable, John Boyne’s The Boy in Striped Pajamas, prompted Roger Sutton to write:
And if children’s writers would just stay away from the fables, already, they would save us ALL considerable trouble. Making a story (The Gift, by Robert Morneau) about transubstantiation into one about pumpkin pie enlightens us about neither subject. Making a story (Bravemole, by Lynne Jonell) about the World Trade Center and terrorists into one about molehills and dragons demeans all concerned.
Phelan has explicitly denied the goal of making The Storm in the Barn tell the history of the Dust Bowl in fable form. As I’ve quoted before, his introduction says, “I wanted this book to be set in the Dust Bowl but not a story directly about the Dust Bowl.” He was instead aiming to create a small “legendary story of supernatural happenings.”

TOMORROW: Are different standards at work?

No comments: