PIPERS AT THE GATES OF DAWN by Jonathan Cott

PIPERS AT THE GATES OF DAWN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Seven ""encounters"" with creators of children's literature, most of them reprinted from The New Yorker (Astrid Lindgren; playground folklorists Iona and Pater Opie), Parabola (Chinua Achebe; P. L. Travers), and Rolling Stone (Maurice Sendak). No self-effacing interviewer, Cott has--to be sure--thoroughly assimilated the work of all his subjects, so that ha can call up quotas for all seasons; and ha is as thoroughly prepared to expound on the theories of William Steig's mentor Wilhelm Reich. . . or recite to Geisel Kornei Chukovsky's 12 rules for composing children's verse. . . or cheer up Maurice Sendak with ""what I think is an appropriate little vignette that appears in Gustav Janouch's Conversations with Kafka."" (The Sendak interview, also reprinted in Cott's Forever Young, is updated here to include a discussion of the gestation of Outside Over There--""It's my imagining of Mozart's Life,"" says Sendak.) Only the Opies are left alone to relate how they conduct their research and how they began, and to give a tour of their library/archive/home. (""We have three thousand cards with marble terms, calls, and names, plus entries on Roman marbles and medieval marbles round in the Thames."") Elsewhere, Cott's erudition can be simply distracting, and his stance as an appreciator tends to encourage the more misty and sententious tendencies of P. L. Travers--""a pupil,"" as he tells us, ""of AE, Gurdjieff, and a Zen roshi."" As ever, Cott pays obeisance to the innocent eye of childhood. Beyond that ha offers little in the way of an approach to children's literature or an understanding of the works in question.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1983
Publisher: Random House