The 10PM Question, Kate De Goldi
The 10pm Question, Book Blurb
“Frankie Parsons is twelve going on old man: an apparently sensible, talented Year 8 with a drumbeat of worrying questions steadily gaining volume in his head:
Are the smoke alarm batteries flat?
Does the cat, and therefore the rest of the family, have worms?
Will bird flu strike and ruin life as we know it?
Is the kidney-shaped spot on his chest actually a galloping cancer?
Most of the significant people in Frankie’s world – his father, his brother and sister, his great-aunts, his best friend Gigs – seem gloriously untroubled by worry. Only Ma takes seriously his catalogue of persistent anxieties; only Ma listens patiently to his 10 p.m. queries.
But of course, it is Ma who is the cause of the most worrying question of all, the one that Frankie can never bring himself to ask. Then the new girl arrives at school and has questions of her own: relentless, unavoidable questions. So begins the unravelling of Frankie Parsons’s carefully controlled world. So begins the painful business of fronting up to the unpalatable: the ultimate 10 p.m. question…
‘A truly special book. Kate De Goldi’s dazzling writing will break your heart and make you wonder, marvel and laugh all at once. A gorgeous, deeply imagined story.’ AGNES NIEUWENHUIZEN”
Back Cover, Kate De Goldi (2008) The 10PM Question. Longacre Press: Dunedin
The 10pm Question, First Page
Tuesday, February 14
Tuesday the fourteenth of February began badly for Frankie Parsons. There was no milk for his Just Right. There was no Go-Cat for The Fat Controller, so The Fat Controller stood under the table meowing accusingly while Frankie ate his toast.
The newspaper hadn’t arrived, which meant Frankie couldn’t take a headline and article for Current Affairs, and so would earn one of Mr A’s sardonic looks; nor could he check the weather report for humidity. Humididty levels were important to Frankie, and for two reasons: one, a cricket ball swung rather trickily and lethally when the air was heavy, which was a good thing. Two, ants appeared in droves when the temperature was warm and the atmosphere thick, which was a very bad thing. Frankie nursed a special hatred for ants.
So, Tuesday the fourteenth began badly, and continued that way. Frankie’s sister, Gordana, had swiped the last muesli bar and the only crisp apple; there were no water bottles; the Cling Wrap had run out; there was no bus money in his mother’s wallet so Frankie had to search for a nail file in order to prize out ten-cent pieces from the emergency pink china pig.”
p7, Kate De Goldi (2008) The 10PM Question. Longacre Press: Dunedin
Read further at Allen and Unwin’s extract online
Themes in the novel
To be cont…
Possible directions for study/questions to apply to The 10PM Question
Is it worth exploring this text against theory that surrounds illness narratives? I’m interested in reading more to see how Ann Pistacchi worked with Te Whare Tapa Wha and Patricia Grace’s Dogside Story (see Ann Pistacchi “Te Whare Tapa Wha: The Four Cornerstones of Maori Health and Patricia Grace’s…“Journal of New Zealand Literature; 2008; p26+)…
– Within the first few pages, the protagonist has encountered or thought about more than 20 characters (family, friends, neighbours, neighbourhood animals). Why have such a strong sense of community established so early on in this story? How does this sense of community help the reader enter Frankie’s story?
– Is this strong sense of community continued throughout the novel? What purpose does it serve?
– Frankie’s character is well established within the first few paragraphs, through all the discussion about seemingly minor (though fully described) aspects of daily life. His morning routine invites this discussion, but it is worth noting that De Goldi has chosen to throw the reader straight into Frankie’s world of thinking… how does this influence our engagement with the text?
– Are we ever invited not to empathise with Frankie? What about the other characters? Where is the reader asked to direct their empathy in this novel?
– Why this protagonist to tell this story?! (What story is being told?) (Why not tell this from the mother’s point of view… etc?)
– How could this story be told differently?! (always a revealing question!)
– setting is easily ignored – and the kitchen seems a likely place to find a school boy in the morning – but… why this setting? Why open the story in the kitchen (but not reveal straight away that Frankie’s mother is agorophobic)?
– How many settings are there in this novel? Where does the action take place? Where are lessons learned/experiences had?
– there are nine chapters, but each is also given a date by way of a title – and each date is a Tuesday… Why break the novel up this way?
– Note that, of The 10PM Question, De Goldi herself has stated: “I did want it to be, like all the children’s literature I’ve admired and been formed by, a children’s book that had texture and psychological depth, had much of the small furniture of a character’s life, a book that had internal action – thinking – as much as external. A book that didn’t rely on action for tension, a book that had a demanding lexicon and sophisticated references, textured characterisation, good sentence making, etcetera. I wanted to write a children’s book that could be as interesting to adults as young readers, which I suppose is one way I define a good children’s book, picture book or novel. That’s what I wanted to do. Whether I managed it is another matter, and whether it’ll endure another matter again.
The 10PM Question provoked a bit of discussion around just who the book was for, whether it was a children’s or a young adult or an adult book. I’m quite clear that it’s a children’s book, as distinct from a YA book, but, as I say, one that I hope can be read by adults, and in an interesting way. I think a true children’s book is more readily accessible to adult readers than a YA book. YA territory and character perspective is narrow and almost solipsistic. By definition and like the group it’s written for it kind of excludes the readership either side of teenage years, children and adults. Whereas a good children’s book, perhaps paradoxically, is taking in, reporting the whole world, working on a wider canvas. As much as anything children’s literature is about watching and decoding the adult world. YA literature mostly looks inward. The characters are often at war with/rejecting the adult world. They’re looking at themselves and their immediate peer group. I suppose I’m less interested in it as a genre now because of this.
But surely, in the end, a good book breaks free of any age-specific moorings and just finds a certain kind of reader. There are any number of quotes from writers about this, in relation to children’s books. P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins’ creator – now there are some amazingly complex children’s books – said, “There is no such thing as a children’s book. there are simply books of many kinds and some of them children read.” Katherine Paterson quotes Edward Blishen on the same matter: “Blishen has a good phrase for books that are right for children. What they have in common, he says, is a young eye at their center. No matter how beautifully observed an incident may be, if it is solely an adult’s view of young behaviour, it passes inches over a child’s head and heart. Gulliver’s Travels may be read by the young, while 1984 is not suitable. Both are satires. Both are fantasies. Yet Swift has a sense of wonder, a property of Mr Blishen’s ‘young eye’ and Orwell has not. Swift has anger, again a property of youth, while Orwell has only bitterness.”” (p.150)
Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine; italics in original) ‘Kate De Goldi: Interviewed by Kim Hill‘ in Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion pp.134-153, Ed. Siobhan Harvey. Cape Catley Ltd: Auckland 2010
To be cont…
Texts that invite comparison
How to use this blog
Mindmaps help me think critically. They help me see the links between things and plot a course through all the observations and questions that a text provokes when I read it ‘as a text.’ This blog is a mindmap of sorts; full of random thoughts and relevant-seeming quotations or ideas.
- There is a tag cloud to the right of the blog, which shows the topics I am exploring as ‘tags.’
- You can also use the search bar at the bottom of the page to see if a particular word/book/author/theme is mentioned.
- Each time I bring an author into the discussion for the first time, I add an “Introducing the author” blog. This is easily found at the beginning of the section under that author.
- I have a section titled ‘Blog Notes’ in which I explain my blogging style.
- I have a ‘Literary Resources’ section which includes general ideas on literature and its study as well as the questions I apply to any text I study.
- These questions (eg. Character Questions) may be useful to any other reader wishing to look at this text differently (refer to very early on in the blogging history of this section).
- I absolutely welcome discussion: comments, suggestions, ideas, criticisms… please add them!
De Goldi’s The 10pm Question: a History
Winner 2009 New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award Award and Young Adult Fiction Category Winner
Winner of the Readers Choice Award – Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2009
Runner-up in the Fiction category – Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2009
CLFNZ Notable Books List 2009
Longlisted, The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2010
2011 USBBY (United States Board of Books for Young People) list of Outstanding International Books for children and young adults
First published by Longacre Press (2008) for young adults (and all ages!), it has since been published by Allen and Unwin and is also available as an ebook. Longacre Press is now owned by Random House NZ.
To be cont…
Bibliography of secondary literature:
- The 10Pm Question Teachers’ Resource Kit by Longacre (freely available download)
- The 10pm Question author statement (freely available download)
- Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, and Kathryn Walls A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction (Victoria University Press: Wellington, 2011)
- Allen and Unwin teacher’ notes (freely available download)
- Reviews by teachers (freely available download)
- There are also a number of interviews and reviews around the place.
Refer earlier blog: “Introducing Kate De Goldi”