A little more on Maniac MaGee

15Feb10

I mentioned Maniac MaGee yesterday while I was talking about Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, and I want to explain.

Image from Borders.com

Maniac Magee is a beautifully written book and there are scenes in it that I’ve remembered vividly since I first read it roughly twenty years ago. Maniac, as Jerry Spinelli said, is a legend; but what about Jeffrey Magee? Do we know him, or have we only seen the legend behind the legend? I feel as though Magee is distant. Perhaps that odd distance is a consequence of the losses he’s suffered, and the lack of parenting. Certainly, you can feel the hunger for a home (an address) that underlies so much of his story. But I’m not entirely sure that he’s a child, not an idea, the word made flesh.

The book is an intricate metaphor, with delights everywhere you look. One reason things feel so right is how each metaphor weaves through the story. Jeffrey’s uncle and aunt, separate in the same house, are a metaphorical foreshadowing of the separated town that Maniac Magee is so instrumental in healing. The rot in John McNab’s home is an objective correlative of the rot in the heart of that family, the racism and lack of parenting and love. The roach on Maniac’s leg was not the only cause for that creepy feeling. The knot, of course, is obvious. And yet, when Maniac unravels the knot it precipitates the hateful graffiti that induces him to leave the Beale’s, his first real home since his parent’s died. But the Beale’s love and Amanda’s books allowed Maniac to make a home with Grayson and teach him to read.

Cool book. I have to think about Lightning Thief.

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