Paula Danziger FAITH McNULTY - Essay

FAITH McNULTY

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Paula Danziger is a writer like Judy Blume] who capitalizes on the sordid details of adolescence [and whose] "Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?"… is ruefully and relentlessly funny, in a style reminiscent of Erma Bombeck's. Danziger's heroine is fourteen, and, it says on the jacket, "her life is the pits."… In the end, the heroine feels a lot better because, in a moment of revelation, she accepts her dreary future. "My life's not going to drastically change," she muses. "It hardly ever does when you're a kid. My parents certainly aren't going to change that much…. What I am sure of is that I finally did something for myself, that I'm learning to do what I think is best for me." I took the last sentence to be the redeeming social message of the book. I also noticed that throughout this book and in many other "contemporary" novels an enormous amount of hostility and resentment is expressed by young heroes and heroines. In almost all these books, realism means not only a problem but a grievance. Is this a reason they are so popular? One has a disquieting impression of legions of angry kids out there fuming over the dishes, their parents' insensitivity, and many things far worse, who are eager to identify with similarly mistreated heroes and heroines. Often, the happy ending comes when the child casts off the adult yoke and becomes his or her "own person"—a boneless phrase that sets my teeth on edge. Trying to grasp its meaning is something like trying to grasp a jellyfish, but its elasticity makes it a convenient conclusion for any number of books. (pp. 196, 199)

Faith McNulty, "Children's Books for Christmas: "Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?'" in The New Yorker (© 1979 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. LV, No. 42, December 3, 1979, pp. 196, 199.