Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The case of William Mayne revisited

William Mayne was one of Britain's very best children's writers from the 1950s until his death a couple of years ago. And in 2004 for he was gaoled for two-and-a-half years for offences against children.

Now a post on Freaky Trigger by someone who calls himself pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør (as is his right in a free country) returns to this troubling case:
It seems to me challengingly important, because so challengingly dreadful, to propose that a genuinely lovely writer, a writer deeply worth reading, by children and adults, can at the same time be an abusive man who betrayed trust and responsibility. 
We’re all contradictory, and writers are especially well used to firewalling the sensitive imagination off from the reaches of life that are experienced rather than imagined, for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. And all writers — and this certainly includes me — write as much for an imagined reader as the readers they happen to know and meet in life. 
Who were Mayne’s imagined readers? What do his books tell us?
pˆnk s lord, if I may call him that, makes great claims for Mayne's writing:
Sand is an amazing book, quite unlike any children’s novel before it, at least by any other author I can quickly bring to mind. At one (not unfamiliar) level, it’s a sketch of the fascination and antipathy between secondary modern boys and grammar school girls, in a small never-named northern coastal town — and as such fits into its time, the time of kitchen sink cinema and Coronation Street, the Beatles and, well, Ballard, actually. Because — in its deceptive, even diffident way — it’s a closer cousin to Ballard, Beckett and Camus than anything you’d surely expect to encounter in children’s books.
But I am convinced that these claims are entirely justified. William Mayne is an extraordinary writer.

Pˆnk s lord plans to read or re-read all the Mayne books he can find and (I think) to blog about them.

In the mean time, you may be interested in my own post The death of William Mayne. It has acquired 70 comments and gives us a clearer picture of the man and his activities.

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