It’s been thirty years at least since I read Christina Stead’s THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN. I can’t remember much about it, but lately the father’s endless, self-righteous monologues, dripping with self pity and grandiosity, have been on my mind. I just Googled it and found this 2006 appreciation by Jane Smiley. Tell me reader, is it just me or does her description of him remind you of what we are treated to every evening around 5:00, when our national father shares his innermost thoughts with his captive family? Note the sad last sentence, in which Smiley presumes that Stead’s aim was satirical and not prophetic.
“He is a constant fount of propaganda about himself, about the neighbours, about unnamed hostile strangers, about history, culture, science, geography, religion and the proper way to live. At the end of the novel it appears as though he is going to have a radio show and become a media celebrity, thus unstoppably expanding his audience far beyond the family circle (Stead hardly seems to be a satirist in The Man Who Loved Children, but this is surely a quietly satirical moment).”