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If this category had existed in Spain when it was published, it is likely that it would have earned the critical recognition it deserves. The novel's exciting plot, captivating prose, wise cultural commentary, factual content, sense of humor, and message of female empowerment are strong enough to engage readers of all ages. In addition to its literary value, this novel has a key place in the author's own biography, serving as a bridge back to life and literature after her daughter's untimely death.
Her legacy has been the subject of conferences, books, journals, and articles. This essay proposes a new look at an exceptional novel that, I believe, has been widely overlooked because of misclassification. Caperucita en Manhattan is treasured around the world. The novel's charms are compelling and transcendent. Its significance is based on two pillars: one literary and the other autobiographical.
Caperucita en Manhattan is a novel of considerable attainment. My evidence for genre misclassification will draw on the still under-theorized field of young adult fiction, criticism of which has been dispersed among the realms of education, English, and library science.
Evidence for the autobiographical significance of the novel will come from the author's notebooks, speeches, and letters, as well as from my own experience as her friend and colleague for twenty-five years. Caperucita en Manhattan is a complicated re-imagining of the folk tale that was first brought into print by French author Charles Perrault in Each chapter features a descriptive title reminiscent of a nineteenth-century novel, drawing the reader into the tale.
Part One of the novel establishes the heroine's backstory. Ten-year-old Sara Allen lives in Brooklyn in the s. Sara's parents have mundane occupations and outlooks, but her mother's true passion is baking, and strawberry tarts are her specialty. The young girl identifies with her maternal grandmother, a former chanteuse named Rebecca Little whose stage name is Gloria Star.
She lives in the Manhattan neighborhood of Morningside, across from Morningside Park. This grandmother is both beautiful and brave: she is unafraid to go into the park, despite the threat of the "Bronx vampire" evocative of the "Son of Sam" killer in the s who has murdered five women and is still at large.
Sara learns to keep her dreams to herself, waiting for something to happen while studying a map of Manhattan. Although Sara accompanies her mother on visits to her grandmother by subway each weekend, she longs to go to Manhattan by herself and to stay there. Part Two of the novel delivers the adventure that its title promises. It introduces its most stunning new character, Miss Lunatic. She is a luminous old woman who roams the streets of New York pushing an antique baby carriage.
Miss Lunatic resembles a homeless woman—or the old crone Celestina, whose wisdom is cited in the opening epigraph. In fact Miss Lunatic is the spirit of Liberty: Madame Bartholdi, the year-old mother and muse of the sculptor who created the statue in New York Harbor. She lives to help others and has no interest in material rewards. Miss Lunatic meets Edgar Woolf, a lonely pastry magnate who lives in a luxurious building shaped like a gigantic tart, overlooking Central Park.
Woolf is frantically seeking a new recipe for strawberry tarts, because the one he has is so bad that it is ruining his brand, The Sweet Woolf. The next day, Miss Lunatic comes across Sara crying in the subway, wanting to walk through Central Park on her way to her grandmother's house but overcome with fear. Sara is wearing a hooded red raincoat and carrying a strawberry tart in a basket. The older woman befriends the young girl—more accurately, they befriend each other—and adventures ensue.
Miss Lunatic imparts her secrets and empowers Sara to overcome her fear of freedom. Sara meets Mr. Woolf in Central Park, shares some of the strawberry tart, and arranges for him to get the recipe from her grandmother—the same Gloria Star on whom he had a crush as a young man. The final chapter is entitled " Happy end pero sin cerrar. Although it has been embraced by readers, Caperucita has been sidelined by critics.
The reception history of Caperucita en Manhattan has been one of popular triumph without the critical notice necessary for entry into a literary canon Brown, "Constructing". Not only has critical attention been meager, it has also been misdirected—"faked out" by an initial classification, "literatura infantil," that has no relevance to this novel.
Spain, unlike the United States, had no well-developed "Young Adult" category for fiction until the twenty-first century, when "literatura juvenil" came into its own as a category separate from "literatura infantil. The Premio Nacional de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil, introduced in , has never distinguished between the two categories, awarding prizes indiscriminately to books for either audience.
Although the Premio Alandar de Narrativa Juvenil was inaugurated by the publisher Edelvives in , similar prizes did not proliferate until the past decade. With regard to scholarship, the Ministry of Culture database of Spanish publications since does not contain a single study of literature for young people prior to , and numbers do not begin to build until the years — Base de datos.
This database, which gets its information from publishers when they apply for an ISBN, also fails to distinguish studies of children's books from those that deal with fiction for young adults.
The publication of the Spanish version of the first Harry Potter novel Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal —originally published by J. Rowling as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone two years earlier—was a likely catalyst. Even today, listings of top-selling Young Adult novels in Spain are dominated by translations of J. Rowling and other English-language writers, with Spanish authors gaining ground.
Sales are high because the category extends beyond the Young Adult demographic. Fully 55 percent of these books are purchased by adults over the age of 18, notably by readers who are 33—40 years old Richards. Caperucita was relegated to the children's aisle. This classification endures even though El castillo and El pastel are quite different from Caperucita. When the former two were published together as a single volume, they were labelled stories, not novels.
This is in contrast with the series [End Page ] that Caperucita inaugurated for its publisher Siruela, as defined on the back cover of the first edition. Called "Las tres edades," the series is intended for all readers. Caperucita en Manhattan is much more complex than the author's books for children.
It illustrates ways in which "young adult novels are closer to novels for adults than they are to novels for children," lending credence to the argument that "the YA novel is a subset of the novel for adults while the novel for children is its own creature" Cadden Though El castillo and El pastel share features with Caperucita , their similarities do not diminish this distinction.
While the two earlier books also have girls as protagonists and fantastical elements, they are less than half the length of Caperucita. The characters and plots of the first two books are much simpler, as befits their intended audience. The earlier books' professional "picture-book" illustrations are large and elaborate when compared with the small pen-and-ink drawings by the author that grace the last page of each chapter in Caperucita.
The first two works take place in the worlds of castles and monsters that are the province of children's books. Caperucita , on the other hand, has adult content, though it steers clear of X-rated themes such as the bestiality of Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves.
A linguistic analysis of a sample page page 26 of all three texts indicates that Caperucita is more complex than either El castillo or El pastel. Nevertheless, most will agree that Caperucita is beautifully written, reflecting both the author's talent and her everlasting preoccupation with her craft. The sole volume in which Caperucita en Manhattan now appears as the first of her novels of the s is Volume II of the Obras completas , although the fact that all of her novels are published in chronological order elides the issue of classification.
Even the forward-looking anthology Beyond the Back Room , edited by Womack and Woods, scants Caperucita en Manhattan , with brief references embedded in essays about other works.
A translation into English, long overdue, would hasten recognition of its stature, as will a filmed version currently in development. Spanish educators have confirmed the merits of Caperucita as a Young Adult novel, which is after all a category defined by its intended audience. The book has long been required reading for Spanish secondary-school students throughout the country. Young adult readers in Spain and presumably elsewhere around the world have responded enthusiastically to the novel.
Young readers also note how they found themselves swept up by the novel, finding [End Page ] it a pleasure to read. Beyond its entertainment value, the novel is admired for its ability to move readers emotionally, inspiring them to relate its message to their own lives. According to a pioneering theorist of the genre, this is a key characteristic of Young Adult fiction: "Young adult literature exerts a powerful influence over its readers at a particularly malleable time in their identity formation" Coats In order to do so, she needed to recover her innate optimism about life.
To review the relevant facts: when her only child died at age 28, the author was left alone in the world except for her older sister and her friends.
She had agreed to go to Vassar many months before, in what would be her fourth visiting professorship in the United States. She kept this promise even though she was at a low ebb emotionally. Once she landed in New York, she stayed for a few days with her friend Juan Carlos Eguillor, who had done the drawings for El castillo de las tres murallas and who had an apartment in midtown Manhattan. He showed her an art project he had begun that was now stalled, about a character in New York City who resembled Little Red Riding Hood.
Though at times the campus could seem like a refuge in the woods, Vassar was mostly an isolated and isolating enclosure for her, literally and figuratively walled off from the world. Fiction was, she thought, beyond the realm of the possible while she felt as devastated as she did. In an early letter dated "Vassar, 26 sept. Gradually she began working on Caperucita as her salvation, taking back enough in her suitcase to complete the novel in Madrid.
With the inspired addition of the fantastic character Miss Lunatic, the longer second part becomes a thrilling adventure. I do not view the author's resuscitation through Caperucita as primarily abstract and intellectual, rooted in her affinity for the genre of the fantastic Teruel, "Un contexto". Instead, I believe that she was saved partly by New York City, whose energy was contagious, and by her feisty protagonist, Sara Allen.
By nurturing a young girl who would go on to a triumphant life—even though it was in a fictional world—the author was able to pick up the pieces of her own life and, most importantly for her own salvation, return to the pleasures that fiction-writing held for her.
Although it might seem odd for a writer from Spain to be an expert on New York, in fact she researched the city just as she researched other topics. As noted earlier, a cluster of critics has seized on the author's multifaceted depictions of New York in Caperucita.
Alison Ribeiro de Menezes, especially, captures the symbolic importance of the city, deeming it a "portico" or gateway "offering entry into a symbolic realm of self-understanding" Caperucita offers a tour of Manhattan landmarks as Miss Lunatic traverses them—dispensing wisdom and potions and even reading recommendations along the way.
She takes the idea of social construction of urban space to its imaginative extreme, adding a magic underground passageway between Battery Park and Liberty Island that might qualify as a mystical "Thirdspace" Soja. She captures the essence of Manhattan neighborhoods from rich to ragged, often to comic effect.
One very amusing scene involves Miss Lunatic crashing a midtown movie shoot with Sara; although at first they are denied entry, the director ends up enchanted by Miss Lunatic and begging her to be in his film. Practical information abounds.
Helpful hints for travel within the city—including distances and public transportation routes—are part of the package. And the trumpeted analogy used to explain the shape of Manhattan, devised by Sara and enthusiastically repeated by adults around her, is unlikely [End Page ] to be understood by Americans.
Ultimately, the New York of this novel is her very own.
CAPERUCITA EN MANHATTAN
A Modern Red Riding Hood in New York City