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Alfred and Guinevere by James Schuyler

Alfred and Guinevere (1958)

by James Schuyler, James Schuyler

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893135,585 (3.88)14



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American life through children's eyes,, 30 March 2016

This review is from: Alfred and Guinevere (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
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A delicious read, told entirely in conversation between young Alfred and his rather older sister Guinevere; and in the diary of the latter.
As their parents appear to be having issues, the pair are sent off to Granny and Uncle Saul.
I particularly loved the exchanges between Guinevere and her new friends; their attempts at adult conversation, from clothes ("my ideal evening dress," Guinevere said, "is an all-raspberry chiffon with a sequin bodice and Juliet cap, slashed sleeves and an ostrich-tip fan and floating panels.") to the future ("my first ambition is interpretive dancing - gypsy and light-classical - and my second is hotel management") and the bitchiness that comes into their relationship when a third girl joins in.
Brilliantly observed and highly entertaining. ( )
  starbox | Mar 30, 2016 |
This is maybe a 3.5 star book. It's quite enjoyable, and the author really pegs the voices of these two precocious children. Reading passages from Guinevere's diary often felt a little like looking back at my own adolescent diary. ( )
  tercat | Nov 19, 2013 |
Compulsively readable, suitable for the dinner table, this camp novel is set largely in the dialog of two children, a young boy and his (presumably) 14-15ish sister. Are children naturally campy? After all, can't we say that camp is a funny (or wry? or deliberate: and if deliberate, strike the previous suggestion) version of the uncanny? And what's more uncanny, and prone to sensations of uncanniness, than a child?

A representative bit, when Alfred wants to add something to the letter Guinevere is writing to their mother. The quote starts with what must be Guinevere:

"...What do you want to tell Mother?"
"Something short so it won't take me all day and all night to copy it. I'm thinking. I saw five cows. Are there any g's in that?"
"Wait a sec. No."
"Think of some more to say with g's in it. I can print good g's."

Imagine contouring your prose according to orthography! Hilarious.

It's easy to intermingle my memory of this novel with that of The Young Visitors, The Diary of Adrian Mole, and even, as one reviewer dropped below, Catcher in the Rye. ( )
1 vote karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Schuylerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schuyler, Jamesmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322498, Paperback)

One of the finest American poets of the second half of the twentieth century, James Schuyler was at the same time a remarkable novelist. Alfred and Guinevere are two children who have been sent by their parents to spend the summer at their grandmother's house in the country. There they puzzle over their parents' absence and their relatives' habits, play games and pranks, make friends and fall out with them, spat and make up. Schuyler has a pitch-perfect ear for the children's voices, and the story, told entirely through snatches of dialogue and passages from Guinevere's diary, is a tour de force of comic and poetic invention. The reader discovers that beneath the book's apparently guileless surface lies a very sophisticated awareness of the complicated ways in which words work to define the often perilous boundaries between fantasy and reality, innocence and knowledge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:11 -0400)

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An edition of this book was published by NYRB Classics.

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