Saturday, 23 August 2008

Best of times?

This is a post well worth reading.

Well, the whole blog is, but this struck a particular chord with me as I have often wondered what happened to the great tradition of social novels and plays with which we were once blessed; the great satirical works.

It is true we do still get social commentary in novels, but on the whole we seem to be dished up a diet of white bread and circuses - and this is nowhere more apparent than on television. Circuses in which bullying seems to be the central tenet and in which we are subjected to the 21st century equivalent of entertaining ourselves by visiting Bedlam.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


It was bound to happen eventually (and perhaps this is not the first instance), but a book has been censored so that a supermarket chain will continue to stock it. The story is depressing, although it was something that I (along with many others) thought would happen.

There are really two stories here. The first is whether ‘twat’ is an appropriate word for a children’s book (and whether Jacqueline Wilson should get herself a more comprehensive dictionary and more observant editors). The second is just how has the publishing allowed itself to get to the point where a supermarket chain can, indirectly for the moment, dictate the content of a book.

Is ‘twat’ appropriate? Well, I suppose it depends on context. I know that it is a slang word for female genitalia, but it also means ‘obnoxious or contemptible’ when applied to a person. I would imagine the latter is derived from the former in much the same way you hear a person called a ‘silly c*nt’. Not exactly appropriate for nine-year-old children, even if it is already in the vocabulary of many and used in the playground or on the streets. I suggest, therefore, that JW treats herself to a better dictionary and a decent thesaurus; then goes round to her publisher and creates merry hell with whatever passes for an editorial team. Someone, somewhere along the line must have seen that word and wondered. If they didn’t, then what an earth are they doing being employed by a publisher?

The second issue raised by this story is how did the publishing industry get to this point. I know they have to sell books. I realize in this case that changing the word may be appropriate. But a precedent is being set (or reinforced). How far will publishers go in allowing retailers to dictate the content of the books they publish? Will manuscripts have to be vetted by supermarket chains before a contract is offered to an author? Will proposals have to be run past the hypermart commissioning editors? Will agents have to negotiate with retailers as well as publishers to tie up a deal? They seem logical steps if once publishers allow this kind of interference.

I doubt… well, I hope it will never become that extreme, but it does seem to me to be yet another symptom of the way in which large, mainstream publishers have lost their way. If, in this case, the publisher didn’t spot the potential problem to begin with, it is clearly failing in the editorial process. If it did spot the word and decided to go ahead with it in the book, it is craven (after so few complaints) that they should be reprinting with the offending word removed.

It is a development worth watching.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Just passing through

It's been a while since I posted. So I thought I would drop by, resisting the temptation to go on about the usual things, and say hello.

All this wet weather seems to have found its way into my bones (which is preferable to it finding its way into my shed, grrr, which in itself is nothing compared with the poor souls who find it running through their living rooms and kitches).

Energy is being saved for Charlie.

I will, no doubt, be back soon for a rant.

Stay safe. Stay dry.

Saturday, 2 August 2008


No. Not a letter offering me a gong (which would, in the highly unlikely event, go straight back with a ten page rant on what I think of the honours system, the government of this country, royalty, and anything else I can think of just to make my position clear).

I have titles for the four Charlie books. All official.

They were chosen provisionally quite some time ago, but now I have permission to use them. Permission was necessary as they are from the lyrics of a song, one that has been key to my psyche since it was first released in 1971.

The song is by one of the truly great British singer/songwriters, Roy Harper. The song is ‘The Same Old Rock’ from the album Stormcock.

The four Charlie books will, therefore, be:

Thin Reflections
The Mirror That Is Made
All The Colours In A Shade
Once Upon A Chance

So woo hoo and Hats off to Harper.

Cheers Roy.