Saturday, 12 February 2011

Play nicely Martin

There must, as they say, be something in the water. First we have two football bods being rude about female match officials, then Jeremy Clarkson and his droogs mocking Mexicans and now Martin ‘son of Kingsley’ Amis has had a go at children’s authors. You may have missed the last. It was in a TV interview with Sebastian ‘literary writer’ Faulks in the course of which Amis fils stated that he would require to be ‘brain-damaged’ before he could write a book for children.

What is it about children’s books that so irritate Britain’s intelligentsia? I assume it has something to do with Harry Potter being so successful but I don’t remember Roald Dahl getting it in the neck in this way. He would be criticised for being too dark or otherwise unsuitable, but I cannot recall anyone saying that he must have suffered some kind of mental collapse between writing all those ‘tales of the much as we expected’ (as Peter Cook called them) and James & The Giant Peach.

As always when one of these attacks on children’s books pops up, I am reminded of Philip Pullman, a writer who, as a friend once said about Derek Jarman’s films, I don’t really like but I’m very glad he’s there. His reply to someone’s query as to when he was going to start writing grown-up books was to comment that an equivalent was to ask a paediatrician when they were going to start doing grown-up medicine. He also once smugly noted that when the Dark Materials trilogy, which deals with the existence of God and the role of religion amongst other things, was top of the children’s best-selling charts, the best-selling adult’s novel was Does My Bum Look Big In This?.

Which is nice.

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