The urge to blog struck me early yesterday, as I actually managed to read a bit of the paper with my breakfast. The Education Guardian had a piece on children’s books. ‘Interesting’, thought I. ‘Ah, oh, another piece by Jackie Kemp’, was my next thought. Quoting just as accurately as last week on the Anne Fine affair, and just as ‘off topic’ as with that business. Because, as I said before, I was there, and I heard it.
I was full of admiration regarding how you can build (and presumably be paid for) a half page newspaper article on some borrowed quotes from here and there. Had I not gone to these events in Edinburgh, I would have imagined that the journalist would have had the idea for the article and then, when needing quotes from reliable people, asked a few specialists what their thoughts on the subject might be. That’s what it looks like.
It’s a follow-on from the Fine uproar, along the lines of what we subject our children to. (It can only be the British who get into such a state over what their innocent young ones read, while still being generally so anti-children.) Daughter was shocked that there are children who have never heard of the Holocaust, so that they can be shocked at what happened then. If it makes someone anti-war, then that’s good. And why is reading about that worse than being scared witless by some traditional story, read by a loving parent?
Anyway, I moved on to Facebook, where Patrick Ness was outraged that he’d been quoted in the same article as having uttered a cliché he would never consider uttering; ‘Never in my life have I used the phrase “the strength of the human spirit” I feel like suing for cliché libel.’ He reputedly said it about Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child, so at least he ended up recommending a wonderful book. (But the postscript is that Patrick says he only recommended one book. Someone made up the other two.)
It’s good that papers write about reading and children. And the Guardian is a good paper. But I do wonder what the effects of this kind of tabloid behaviour are. On another blog Jackie Kemp seems to make the comment that the Anne Fine article had been changed out of recognition by someone else. I have to assume they’ve been at it again. I had the pleasure of writing some paid-for blogs for the Guardian last year. I had to accept that some of the words weren’t mine. They edited, and usually they made me sound less like me, but more grown-up and proper. Once or twice they put in facts that were wrong, but being online it was possible to edit out the real mistakes later.
But even in my humble case, I found myself asked to write an anti-Thomas the Tank Engine blog. Thomas needed ridiculing, because of something another paper had published. I said I could only write nice things about Thomas, and was told to do that then. I did. It was never used. So that was a waste of time, if rubbishing was the only thing of interest.
What we have here are correct quotes from some author events, but used to illustrate something different. Bernard Beckett did say that funny thing about most cars not killing you, but it was an example of how he looks at life in a positive way. Neither he nor Patrick said what they are quoted as having said, in response to a question from Jackie Kemp. But it looks like they did. I don’t know about the other people who have had a say. Hopefully they were asked directly in connection with the article.