One-A-Day: Louis Sachar, Holes

I know some people are skeptical about whether you can teach people to write fiction in a conventional classroom. At the very least, I think aspiring writers can benefit by reading marvelous examples of particular kinds of writing or particular aspects of fiction.

If I were building such a class, I’d teach Louis Sachar’s novel Holes as a premiere example of brilliant plot construction. Every gun on the mantlepiece gets fired eventually somewhere in the story, and exactly when it needs to be.

I read the entire book to my daughter and my wife this past weekend. We started, got a little ways in, and then both of them wanted to hear the whole thing right away, which is a tribute to Sachar’s storytelling. You could use the book as a sort of sonar for detecting inauthenticity and excess in other fiction, especially young adult and children’s fiction. Sachar uses race, he uses history, he uses hardship, but it never seems forced or demanded by a didactic project.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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2 Responses to One-A-Day: Louis Sachar, Holes

  1. Yes, Sachar’s Holes in one of the real masterpieces of a genre that’s hard to do well: serious young adult fiction–“serious” in the sense that it’s doing serious things, despite the overlapping layers of myth and whimsy. This isn’t to knock many other fine YA novels; just to note that in so many, certain recurring fantasy elements serve as kind of a story-telling crutch, but Sachar manages to tell a story that is really his own, and that’s rare.

    Have you seen the movie version, with the young Shia LaBeouf? I thought it was wonderful, and really struck the right tone for the story, but your take may differ.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    I like the movie very much also. Very smart choices about how to approach the story, and since Sachar wrote the screenplay, the language retains its perfect pitch.

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