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Realism and Ambiguity
"Try a Little Tenderness" Boston Magazine
This profile of Cormier investigates his life and work, with a specific focus on his recent visit to Judge John J. Connelly Youth Service Center, a Roslindale youth lockdown for boys. Keeping his interactions with troubled youth to the fore, the piece also brings in the characters of Cormier's recent novel, Tenderness, which students at the facility had recently read. Cormier shares his concerns about whether his depictions of the juvenile detention center are realistic enough and if they appealed to this audience. Cormier also wonders whether and how the youth connected with the antagonist, Eric, or the sadly fated protagonist, Lori. Also included is a background of Cormier's early writing career.
Tenderness review in The Bulletin
The Bulletin's review of Cormier's novel Tenderness recounts the novel's plot and criticizes the novel's "clichèd action and stock characterization." The review also mentions the influence of thrillers and melodramas as mirrored in Tenderness's plot structure and pacing.
Lara Langweiler's letter to Robert Cormier 13 December 1999
In this 2-page letter to Cormier, middle-school student Lara praises Cormier's realistic and socially relevant novels, and thanks him for making her "less self-centered" through his work. She mentions the very real potential for anyone to behave badly, especially when provoked by fear. She recognizes the value of respect and the realism of his work, comparing his topics to those typically found in the news.
"The Sand in the Oyster So What Really Happened?" Horn Book Magazine
This article, by Cormier biographer Patty Campbell, explores the increased presence of ambiguity and ambivalence in young adult novels. While the article discusses Cormier's work heavily, references are made to other YA authors including Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, Terry Trueman, and David Almond. Campbell considers how these YA authors construct ambiguity by using the unreliable narrative voices of adolescents. While Campbell praises the complex ambiguities inherent in the ending of The Chocolate War, she criticizes the novel's follow-up, Beyond the Chocolate War, for lacking that ambiguity, and undermining the Jerry, the protagonist. Campbell also asks readers to consider if increasing the ambiguity in fiction makes the fiction more realistic, and if such a goal is even desirable.
"The Days of Sweet Innocence" John Fitch IV Column
In this bi-weekly column written under the name "John Fitch IV", Cormier blends verse and prose to poke fun at our naïve innocence of the world as viewed through the lens of movie clichés, which, by definition, lack the ambiguity of realism. Amongst the roughly three dozen clichés are some on female beauty, heroism, the appearance of villains, and the actions of stock characters.
Clearing Up Ambiguity. In this article by Tim Parks in the NYR Daily of The New York Review of Books (2015 Sept. 1), the author considers the role of ambiguity in the fiction of recognized authors and its effect on readers.
Lorin Stein on the Power of Ambiguity in Fiction. In this article by Joe Fassler in The Atlantic (2015 Nov. 17), the author engages in conversations with authors and editors to unpack the power and complications inherent in literary ambiguity.
Literary Realism. In this review by Alfred Kazin in The New York Review of Books (1963 June 1), the author discusses a then-new edited book by George J. Becker, Documents of Modern Literary Realism, and outlines Becker's history of and arguments used in supporting the use of realism.