Bette Bao Lord Katherine Paterson - Essay

Katherine Paterson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Spring Moon Lord uses] an introductory section at the beginning of each chapter. This section may relate a bit of history, folklore, a family story, or a few lines of poetry, but each selection helps the reader to understand what follows without having to call a halt to the story while one of the characters or the intrusive author himself delivers a pompous lecture…. [The selections] clarify and enrich the novel without seeming to interrupt it.

The problem of language is not quite so gracefully solved. First of all, there is the matter of names…. In this book, except in the cases of actual historical persons, surnames, which tend to be simple, are in Chinese, and given names, which are more complicated, are in translation. Thus instead of calling the characters Chang Chun Yue or Chang K'ang Neng, they are called Chang Spring Moon or Chang Noble Talent. Granted, it's a sort of mongrel solution and results in some rather stilted name-calling … but it does let us know at once who is doing what without having to flip back to check out identities.

Lord is less helpful when it comes to idiomatic phrases. Like anyone who knows a language, she simply can't or won't give up certain expressions…. [When] I read that Spring Moon pushed her cloth-bound feet into a pair of pink embroidered slippers and pulled on her "ta chin p'ao" and stepped out onto the gallery, I was at a loss to know what the child was...

(The entire section is 506 words.)