Tag Archives: Bernard Beckett

That’s not Fine, that’s a cliché

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.

‘Writing novels is basically lying’

It really was Day 7 despite it being the eighth day, because the exhausted witch and her photographer took a day out. We were going to sleep all day, but didn’t quite manage it. Back to the grind, slightly recharged.

Marina Lewycka

Had hoped to shoot Marina Lewycka first thing, but she was running late, so it was her event which came first. Daughter has no interest in Ukrainian tractors, strangely enough, so it fell to your witch to hear Marina read from her third book, We Are All Made of Glue. That was after Laura Marney, who chaired, had offended most of the audience by accidentally saying she hoped all of us were born after World War II. Not judging by the amount of grey hair, they weren’t. I asked for permission to take a photo of Marina as she signed books afterwards, and she asked if she looked all right! She looked fantastic.

The official shooting of Marina came later, and unfortunately it fell to the witch to do that, too, as the photographer had gone off with Philip Ardagh.

Philip Ardagh

Philip  introduced his new Grubtown Tales, which by the looks of it required his towel again. Good thing Philip is Arthur Dent-ish in his packing. I was very, very sorry to miss the event, but splitting in two is painful. I saw Philip for the signing in the bookshop, and so did my new photographer acquaintance from the press pod, who was keen to come along when she heard who I was rushing off to see. Philip’s fans range from small boys to Queens. The Queen of Teen herself, Louise Rennison, was queueing up to get his signature. If you can call that stamp a signature?

Louise Rennison

Keith Gray

A lovely thing about the book festival is that people you don’t necessarily expect, pop up. While waiting for Mr Ardagh, I turned round and found Keith Gray at the next table, so went up to introduce myself. The man’s got taste. He reads Bookwitch. He even claimed to be pleased to see me. Very charming. And no, I don’t know the identity of the blonde who was photographed with Keith, either.

There was time for tea.

Justin Richards

Then Daughter went off to see Doctor Who. Not David Tennant, sadly, but Justin Richards, who writes Who books. But Who is Who, and can’t be missed. Not having been present myself, I can’t be sure, but she claims she even asked a question. Good grief. Something about science.

Patrick Ness

As for me, I had a sort of half agreed meeting with Patrick Ness. Don’t know why, but I have been haunting the poor boy for a long time, and I expect he wanted to get it over and done with. He had a bit more hair than I had imagined, and he is even more handsome in real life than in his photos. And due to the Who situation, I had to take Patrick’s photo, so it’s not as good as it should have been. Sorry. But we bonded a little over our Nordic-ness. (Hey, that’s wittier than I realised.) Patrick was late into Edinburgh, but seemed really cool about having virtually no time to prepare. Nothing to prepare, by the sound of it.

While hanging around, I came across Vanessa of the Children’s Bookshop. The bookshop bookshop, not the festival one. Didn’t know that she was chairing my next event, which was Elizabeth Laird. Had half hoped to see her too, but running late appeared to be a pattern just then.

On our last evening in Charlotte Square I ended up two-timing Elizabeth and Patrick. My wand had broken, so I was unable to be in two places at once. It’s a nuisance when that happens. So, I spent half an hour listening to Elizabeth tell stories, which was very nice. The children sat on the floor in front of her, as she re-told some of the traditional stories in her new book, The Ogress and the Snake. Old Somalian stories, I believe, which Elizabeth had found in Africa.

Skipped across to Patrick’s discussion with Bernard Beckett, on dystopias in YA books. Patrick has a world where nowhere is quiet, which he thinks of as similar to information overload. (I so agree!) All the texting and Facebooking would have driven him mad when he was younger, or so he thinks. Bernard, on the other hand, likes all this, so they are obviously coming from totally opposite directions. A world that has ice cream is good, according to Bernard. Patrick grew up surrounded by people who had a date for when the world would end. And he’d rather we don’t ask about the dog. So maybe he feels a little guilty…

Elizabeth Laird

With a last train to Manchester to catch, we left early, as did Theresa Breslin, who had sneaked in while waiting to go to some party. We had no party invitation, but did stop briefly to chat to Elizabeth Laird on our way out of Charlotte Square.

(The quote above is Patrick’s. And today the photos are a mix. Bad ones you can blame on moi.)