Stories Without Words

From a review of new and recent children's books in the NYT:

"Wordless books, it turns out, have their own tyrannies. Take Good Dog, Carl, the realist Rottweiler version of The Cat in the Hat. It is a book of few words: 'Look after the baby, Carl. I'll be back shortly' at the start, and 'Good dog, Carl!' at the end. Liberating? No. The tale can be read only one way, and you have to fill in the narration yourself: Mommy is leaving the house. Oh, that dog and baby are making a huge mess. Uh-oh, Mommy will be home soon. Better clean up, Carl. There's Mommy!

"At one point Carl pushes the baby down a laundry chute. He has no choice. He must push the baby so that the plot can survive. As Roland Barthes wrote of another plot and another character in his book S/Z, 'the character's freedom is dominated by the discourse's instinct for preservation.' In other words, the show must go on..."

[Well, this reading is funny but it may not give enough credit to readers, especially those who aren't overly impressed by the forward motion of a strong narrative. Jane routinely makes all sorts of interventions in her books, interrupting the storyteller, inserting new words or making major editorial changes, e.g., all male characters must be changed to female. And she has lately discovered post-its, which have plenty of interesting possibilities... Later: MJ reminds me that Jane also has inserted her foot into an open book and insisted that the characters adapt to the change in the story ("What is this giant foot doing here?")]