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The Man Who Loved Children by Christina…

The Man Who Loved Children (original 1940; edition 1970)

by Christina Stead, Randall Jarrell (Introduction)

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8691910,234 (3.87)1 / 130
Title:The Man Who Loved Children
Authors:Christina Stead
Other authors:Randall Jarrell (Introduction)
Info:Penguin, (1970), Paperback, 523 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Australian Author, Contemporary Fiction

Work details

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (1940)

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English (18)  Dutch (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
You immediately become aware when reading this book how much Christina Stead might be thought to have been in need of a creative writing class or, indeed, a strong editor, as this crazy novel sprawls, messy, repetitive, overlong in many places - but how grateful we should be that she didn't have these alleged benefits as her genius rampages across the verbose pages. This goes for all her books really, but Children is her masterpiece and it comes as life does, straight at you with no time for organisation or reflection. Sam Pollit does indeed love his children, indeed, he almost devours them, they are his mission in life and do become his work as he loses his job because of his arrogant self-belief and intransigence. He cuts his tribe off from the world, creating their own private language (and this is a fabulous thing, a mixture of mispronunciation and childish concoctions - this book is apparenly based on Stead's own family and I would love to know how much of the family language was taken from life). Needless to say, Sam and his second wife come together merely to create more children after hideous, ground-shaking rows, and in-between, communicate only by notes and through messages conveyed by the children, while their ramshackle house falls to pieces around them. The sheer exuberance of the writing and the grotesqueness of some of the characters reminds you of Dickens, but really Stead is unique and cherishable and should be read much more than I suspect she is these days. ( )
1 vote Roseredlee | Jun 24, 2015 |
I was a little hesitant when I saw that this book had a blurb from Jonathan Franzen on the cover. But, I told myself, don't let that influence your opinion of the book, because even people you don't like can like the same things you do. Maybe this book will be the tiny kernel of commonality you never wanted between you and Jonathan Franzen, who knows?

This book is not the tiny kernel of commonality between Jonathan Franzen and me. I loathed it. I loathed everyone in it. I loathed the way it was written. Every single thing about it, I hated.

The title character is the patriarch of the Pollit family, Sam. Or Sam the Bold, as he likes to refer to himself. He has a passel of children from his current marriage to Henny, who comes from a socially-prominent family and took a big step down to marry him. He also has one daughter from his first marriage (his first wife, his true love apparently, died). Sam likes to think of himself as fun-loving, principled, and right-thinking. He speaks to his children in incessant babytalk for some reason. Because he thinks it's cute? Because he is a child himself? Because the author really liked to write sentences that have to be sounded out to be understood, while at the same time making the reader feel like a fool for what he or she is now saying?

I cannot even think about this book any more. I understand where the author was going with it, but I got absolutely no pleasure, enjoyment, or enlightenment out of any of it. The lack of likable characters isn't a dealbreaker to me, but the ones in this book were so irritating to me that every page seemed like an eternity and even as the threads of the story came together, it all felt pointless.

Recommended for: masochists.

Quote: "But women have been brought up much like slaves, that is, to lie." ( )
  ursula | Sep 25, 2014 |
This book is Running With Scissors before Running With Scissors--a fictionalized account of a dysfunctional family. The mother is the character I watch, electrifying every scene she's in. Basically it's about a man who keeps a group of children around him in order to be the expert--what at first seems nice ends up being him stroking his own ego. ( )
1 vote pewterbreath | Nov 3, 2013 |
I kept wishing that I could stop reading this book because it was so ugly, but I couldn't because it was too compelling. It almost physically hurt to read it because it is just bursting with too many sights, too many smells, too much STUFF all falling apart and disintegrating, things falling apart, children scrambling for any kind of understanding, and all this roly-poly, hurdy-gurdy dialog tripping along, ugh. And nothing has so much brought back for me the sensation of being a child in a family, but the truth is, I don't really want that sensation. You know how Tolstoy is bursting full of life in a happy way, and even what's sinister is endearing? The Man Who Loved Children reads a little bit like a refutation, where even what might be endearing is sinister, and the only possible respite comes from the ability to stare the ugly truth in the face and see it for what it is. It is bursting full of a kind of life, but it is a life more like decay. Well, in conclusion, I think this was a very good novel and showed a certain angle of truth extraordinarily well, but thank god there are other angles too. ( )
1 vote LizaHa | Mar 31, 2013 |
The Man Who Loved Children - it's like a TARDIS. From the outside, it looks like a reasonably big novel. But once you get inside, you realise it's huge. The scale of this novel is completely staggering. It's an entire world of its own. Like a fantasy novel, it has its own language, its own geography...if I - horror of horrors - woke up in the Pollit house tomorrow, I know I could find my way around. Stead makes everything so clear.

But let me make this perfectly clear - this is one bleak novel. It's 514 pages of claustrophobic agony. Not to be attempted by anyone who can't stand to read about characters they hate.

Want to hear me continue to rave about The Man Who Loved Children? Click through to my reading (and time travel) blog, Book to the Future, for my complete review:

http://booktothefuture.com.au/?p=1830 ( )
  BooktotheFuture | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This novel is not for everyone, nor for every mood. I have read it twice with great admiration. When I tried to read it a third time (when I had a young family myself), I couldn't stand it. If Hamlet runs four hours and Lear almost five, well, The Man Who Loved Children runs 14 or 15 hours, and though the plot is actually quite neat and progresses steadily, novel-readers are not used to 15-hour storms. The catharsis here, compared with any other tragedy, is a long time coming. Nevertheless, Stead's novel is like Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier in its power to astonish and compel with each reading. It is sui generis among novels, and Stead, too, never wrote anything else like it.
added by PGCM | editThe Guardian, Jane Smiley (Jun 10, 2006)
"Although “The Man Who Loved Children” is probably too difficult (difficult to stomach, difficult to allow into your heart) to gain a mass following, it’s certainly less difficult than other novels common to college syllabuses, and it’s the kind of book that, if it is for you, is really for you. I’m convinced that there are tens of thousands of people in this country who would bless the day the book was published, if only they could be exposed to it. I might never have found my way to it myself had my wife not discovered it in the public library in Somerville, Mass., in 1983, and pronounced it the truest book she’d ever read."
In a letter to Thistle Harris Stead in 1942 Christina Stead wrote:

Every work of art should give utterance, or indicate, the dreadful blind strength and the cruelty of the creative impulse, that is why they must all have what are called errors, both of taste and style: in this it is like a love-affair (a book, I mean.) A love affair is not delicate or clean: but it is an eye-opener! The sensuality, delicacy of literature does not exist for me; only the passion, energy and struggle, the night of which no one speaks, the creative act: some people like to see the creative act banished from the book - it should be put behind one and a neatly-groomed little boy in sailor-collar introduced. This is perhaps quite right. But for me it is not right: I like each book to have not only the little boy, not very neat, but also the preceding creative act: then it is only, that it gives me full satisfaction.1

Here is an author quite conscious of the imperfect, disunified nature of her art. In this letter, Stead shows a rather postmodern consciousness of the novel as creation and an interest in exposing the act of creation in the work of art. Without the assistance of poststructuralist critics, Stead points to the importance of 'errors' as indicators to the reader of art's place in life - art as 'struggle', as process rather than as product.
Zeer lovende bespreking. Ook nawoord en vertaling worden hogelijk geprezen.

"Pas bij de heruitgave in 1966 kreeg het boek, mede door een lang nawoord van Randall Jarrell, de aandacht die het verdiende, en al snel werd het beschouwd als veruit de meest indrukwekkende roman uit de hele Australische literatuur van de twintigste eeuw."
Het is erg knap zoals Stead Sams maatschappelijke idealen koppelt aan de praktijk van het gezin – tirannie, manipulatie, geldingsdrang en emotionele chantage (‘Sammiepammie vraagt niet veel, alleen dit...’).
De man die van kinderen hield is te vol om hier recht te doen, soms misschien zelfs iets te vol. Maar de indruk die na lezing overblijft, is een aangrijpend beeld van destructie. De ideale staat die Sam thuis probeert te creëren, ontaardt in een hel. Een koningsdrama, maar wel een dat zich afspeelt binnen een ‘gewoon’ gezin. Het drama wordt door die gewoonheid alleen maar versterkt, en dat zal de reden zijn geweest dat het in de jaren zestig lezers wél aansprak, en dat het boek invloed zou krijgen op andere schrijvers. Ik kan me voorstellen dat bijvoorbeeld A.M. Homes dit las, voordat ze Music for Torching (1999) over een disfunctioneel gezin in een Amerikaanse buitenwijk schreef.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christina Steadprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jarrell, RandallIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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All the June Saturday afternoon Sam Pollit's children were on the lookout for him as they skated round the dirt sidewalks and seamed old asphalt of R Street and Reservoir Road that bounded the deep-grassed acres of Tohoga House, their home.
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En je kan alles aan, alle wereldproblemen, terwijl er de hele tijd andere vrouwen zijn, jij hypocriet, jij smerige, bloedeloze hypocriet, te goed, andere vrouwen, wetenschapsvrouwen, jonge meiden en je eigen vrouw. Ik zal al je wetenschappelijke verenigingen schrijven, ik zal de Dienst voor Natuurbehoud schrijven, ik zal ze eens vertellen wat voor leven ik heb gehad. Sla me maar, sla me maar neer, ik kan er niet meer tegen. Je dreigt maar je doet niks, niks om me een kans te geven om weg te komen, niet voordat je iets tegen me hebt om mijn kinderen te stelen. Maar dat zal je niet, dat zal je niet! Ik vermoord ze allemaal, ik vermoord ze allemaal vanavond, ik giet die stinkende olie brandend je strot in en en vermoord mijn kinderen, je krijgt ze niet.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312280440, Paperback)

With an Introduction by Randall Jarrell. Sam and Henny Pollit have too many children, too little money, and too much loathing for each other. As Sam uses the children's adoration to feed his own voracious ego, Henny watches in bleak despair, knowing the bitter reality that lies just below his mad visions. A chilling novel of family life, the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives, The Man Who Loved Children, is acknowledged as a contemporary classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Sam and Henny Pollit have too many children, too little money, and too much loathing for each other. As Sam uses the children's adoration to ffed his own voracious ego, Henny watches in bleak despair, knowing the bitter reality that lies just below his mad visions. A chilling novel of family life, the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives." -- Back cover.… (more)

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