Monday, September 03, 2007

Fun With A Purpose


Do you have a moral for that story?

We got an advertisement for a highlights magazine in the mail. It says Highlights, Fun With a Purpose I believe the idea is, it's a learning magazine for children. It's fun, but it also teaches kids various skills: problem solving with puzzles, games and hidden pictures.

I always loved that sort of stuff when I was a kid, and my daughter does too.

I think as a marketing ploy the idea is: this is better than other similar magazines (are there any?) because it teaches learning skills. I think these days most kids (my daughter included) are polishing their problem solving skills, along with their quick-thinking reflexes, at computer games.

But the important thing is: there's a moral to that story.

I was reminded of the special features from last night's movie "Sleepy Hollow". Apparently the last question they asked the stars was "what's the moral to the story" - which, I think, was a dumb question, and judging by some of the answers, the stars agreed.

Michael Gambon: "Hold on to your head."
Christopher Lee: "Don't lose your head."
Johnny Depp: "When Tim Burton asks you to do a movie: Do It!"

And I'm reminded of something Vladimir Nabokov said when questioned about his controversial novel, Lolita. When asked what the moral of the story was, he indicated that he was insulted, and that he was a firm believer that for an author to get didactic ruins the story. In fact, it was one of the reasons he hated Dostoevsky and Tolstoy so much.

Well, I disagree vaguely to Nabokov. It is possible to have a good story with characters in it that THINK. Yet at the same time I can agree to a certain extent: What is the moral of any good story? To make you think!

If a story (read: movie, novel, computer game) doesn't make me think, I quickly lose interest. And, in a word, a good story need not be didactic so long as it at least makes you think. A person can discover the moral value inherent in anything when they are challenged to think.

So, more power to the children's magazines like Highlights that give kids something interesting to make the wheels churn. But all the better something like J. K. Rowling who makes the wheels churn and makes an extremely entertaining story at the same time!


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