Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rabelais for teens?

Way back when I mentioned that the only thing I really knew about Rabelais is that he was one of the authors that Marion (the librarian) had urged on the teens of River City, Iowa in 'the Music Man'.  I wondered how good a fit that would be and whether the town mothers should have been upset.  Now that I've read some of his work, I can finally give that an answer.
I'd be very surprised if anyone urged a teen to read Rabelais in this day and age.  There are some certainly, for whom it would be good but far more for whom it would probably be a mistake.  I can't imagine a school teacher assinging a reading of 'Pantagruel' without risking being fired. 
But that may not be the full story.  It's not all that hard to imagine an edited translation of Rabelais that would keep all of the joy and humanism while skipping the obscene and nasty stuff.  If Marion was urging a bowlderdized version to those teens, that would almost certainly be fine.
My kids?  My oldest right now is four so it's hard to really understand what her teen reading habits will be.  I do know this, when I was a teen I read things that would have raised my parents eyebrows.  I'm guessing that's not all that unusual.  If one of my kids, at fifteen or so, wants to give Rabelais a spin, I'd smile and hand it to them.  I'd tell them that some of it is unbelievable and that they could talk to me after if they wanted.  And then I'd smile some more.

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