My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies/Allen Zadoff: Reflections

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rumor has it that Allen Zadoff is appearing at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books tomorrow afternoon on the YA stage, where he'll be participating in a panel discussion (all right, so, some have called it a smack down) aimed to determine once but never for all what is most powerful, important, life-changing, elucidating, and name-making in the Land of YA:  Fantasy or Realism.

What's that?  You think you know the answer already?  You think you've read somewhere over there that Fantasy rules, Fantasy titillates, Fantasy has it all going on? You think Fantasy gets all the big bucks, the movie deals, the figurines, the very special lunch boxes?

(Okay, you can chill, I'll give you this:  Fantasy really does get all the very special lunch boxes.)

And yet, and but, and forever however:  Hold your horses and your gunfire.  Having just read Allen Zadoff's spanking-new YA novel, his work of Realism art, My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies (Egmont USA), I'm thinking this: If anyone can make the eloquent case for YA Realism, it's Mr. Zadoff, who knows kids, knows funny, knows where teenage angst lies, and knows—beyond all else—how to leverage (novelistically speaking) all the eruptions and allegiances and societal reconfigurations that define those awkward, blessed years.

With Life, Zadoff introduces Adam Ziegler (alter ego?), the kind of theater techie of which Tina Fey would be most proud.  Ziegler (you might also call him Ziggy) is a true backstager, a catwalk prowler, a guy who paints the world with light, or at least the stage during Montclair High's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Darkness is deep sadness for Ziegler—the color of nothing, the color of his father's untimely death.  Light is Ziegler's artistry, but as a techie he's not supposed to think; he's supposed to do whatever his arrogant, nemesistic, and British-accent-flecked director says he must.

Girls are involved.  A best friend.  An overweight adult-in-charge who needs some babysitting.  There's a brother gone to Cornell and a mother who drives so slow Ziegler thinks she is driving backwards.  But mostly, you theater lovers out there, this is Theater, capital T, and this is Realism (note the bold, note the red), and this wins my vote in the smackdownistry that is about to kazam in LA.

I'm going to spend some time on this blog, in days to come, talking to Mr. Zadoff.  Send me your questions in advance.


Elizabeth Mosier said...

Cool! Here are some questions from the Mosier-Mills gang: Are you a techie or an actor? You're so funny in your books. Are you funny in life? Have you ever considered writing from a girl's point of view?

Unknown said...

Hooray for realism!



Melissa Sarno said...

You had me at 'theater'. Sounds like a book I'd really like. Trying to think of a good question. Hmm. Maybe, what he loves about the theater and some memorable experiences being a spectator. I went to his website and it seems he had a lot of experience with theatrical productions, so I wonder what he likes about sitting down to write a book as opposed to collaborating on a show.


Here's a question for both of you: thinking about plots, you're in the middle of writing a first draft. When your imagination runs dry, how do you figure out what comes next?

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