Wednesday, December 8, 2010

03, Jean-Christophe Valtat

This may be the first piece of teenage philosophy fiction I have ever read. I was first drawn to this book because of the reviews- stating the writing was similar to that of 'nouveau roman' fiction. I am a fan of the authors who write within this style, namely Margerite Duras. I was curious to see what an experimental novella working within the 'nouveau roman' style might mean.

The novella, can this even be called novella when it falls to 80 tiny pages?, is about a 12th grade male (the narrator) and his sudden romantic interest in a "slightly handicapped" girl he sees getting on the bus. This isn't some basic story of teenage love, confusion, and disappointment. There is a lot more at work.

The narrator spends the entire 80 pages on one long stream of tangent thought. The thought begins on this girl, but quickly grows into a philosophical monologue about the restrictions of youth. The narrator realizes children, anyone not considered an adult, is in some way "retarded" because of the way they are treated as less than. It's a very interesting statement. And the narrator is filled with plenty of evidence to hold up his theory.

The narrator is quite intelligent. These are not the thoughts of your average 12th grader, but it would certainly be wonderful if they were. The maturity is delightful. I am not usually a fan of fiction told from the "youth perspective." And the narrator makes it clear that his argument of youth being treated as "less than" is quite right because no one would expect these thoughts from one at this age.

The novella is very, very short. The thoughts are quite interesting. You don't have enough time to grow bored. But, you don't have enough time to really become invested. This should be read more as a single theory and the reasons one would believe the theory.


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