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The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead: Worth revisiting?


the-man-who-loved-childrenJonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, is urging bookish people to take another look at Christina Stead’s 1940 novel, The Man Who Loved Children, in Sunday’s New York Times book review essay. It’s a book about a dysfunctional family that has truly slipped off the literary radar.

Stead, an Australian writer who died in 1984, is best known for this particular book although she also penned more than 20 novels and collections of short stories.

Franzen says Stead’s book “operates at a pitch of psychological violence that makes Revolutionary Road look like Everybody Loves Raymond.” Apparently, Stead’s own father, a marine biologist, heavily influenced the father character in The Man Who Loved Children. Franzen seems drawn to the novel because it offers both humour and pain.

UPDATE – This novel has been selling like hot cakes on AbeBooks over the past weekend. It was easily the bestselling book on the site. Obviously, the opinion of Jonathan Franzen has some clout.

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Richard Davies

One Response to “The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead: Worth revisiting?”

  1. Good as it is to see people writing about her, some minor corrections: she died in 1983 rather than 1984, and she did not write more than twenty “novels and collections of short stories.” The Wikipedia article — if that’s where you found that information — is misleading.

    These are the novels she published during her lifetime:

    Seven Poor Men of Sydney
    The Beauties and Furies
    House of all Nations
    The Man Who Loved Children
    For Love Alone
    Letty Fox: Her Luck
    A Little Tea. A Little Chat
    The People with the Dogs
    Cotters’ England / Dark Places of the Heart [here the same book was published under two different names]
    The Little Hotel
    Miss Herbert: The Suburban Wife

    After she was dead, her literary executor R.G. Geering published her novella-length story, The Palace with Several Sides, and a final long novel, pieced together out of unfinished drafts, I’m Dying Laughing, as well as a collection of short stories, Ocean of Story.

    Alive, she also published The Salzburg Tales, a collection of stories told by a group of travellers — Clifton Fadiman said that he preferred it to the Decameron — and The Puzzleheaded Girl, four novellas together in a single volume.

    The other titles listed at Wikipedia are editing jobs, translations, collected letters, or anthologised excerpts from her work.