“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oi, Kids – Go Play In The Traffic

It were all fields round here when I were a boy, and where it weren’t, we used to play football on the street, with special rules to allow for passing traffic. No one I knew was ever killed that way, and occasionally diving out of the way of juggernauts gave you a body swerve Georgie Best would’ve given his left liver for.
  All of which is a long-winded way of saying that kids are tougher than we think, and that the desire to protect kids (especially from themselves) has grown out of all proportion to the real dangers that exist. That’s a bit rich coming from someone who has adapted the last line of the Rock-a-Bye-Baby lullaby to ‘Down will come baby / Daddy break your fall,’ so thankfully John Connolly is on hand, courtesy of the Brisbane Times, to lend a bit of perspective to the debate, and particularly the part of the debate that centres on what kids should or shouldn’t be reading. In a piece titled, ‘Why It’s Good to Terrify Children’, JC ruminates thusly:
“Like a lot of boys, I was curious about the darkness, and I quite liked being scared a little, as long as I was in control of the medium.
  “I can’t ever remember closing a book because it frightened me, but there were a couple that I tended not to read when alone in the house, or when I was sitting up in bed at night. After all, I might have been adventurous when it came to my literary tastes, but I wasn’t stupid.
  “Recently I have been put in the unfamiliar position of having to defend my latest book, THE GATES, from accusations that it may be a bit frightening for younger readers who don’t get out enough …
  “When the Victorians bowdlerised the fables, removing much of the violence and peril, and indeed the punishments visited on the wrongdoers at the end, they took away their power and their purpose. Without terror they have no meaning.”
  The scariest book I read as a kid was the Illustrated Bible, especially the bit where Herod slaughtered all the babies. That and the crucifixion. When you’re a kid, and you realise that this is what they do to the good guy … that’s pretty damn scary.

7 comments:

Gerard Brennan said...

EXCELLENT post, Dec. 100% agreement with you and Mr Connolly. I read Stephen King's IT when I was 13. Reread it when I was in my early 20s and wondered how I managed to understand, enjoy and survive it as a fragile 13-year-old. I assume that I self-censored a lot of it... or maybe I didn't. All I know is I didn't lose an eye or anything.

Coincidentally I started reading The Gates last night. Looking forward to passing it on to my kid sister. I think she'll enjoy it as much as I have so far.

Cheers

gb

Brian said...

My daughter, age 7, is an avid reader. Recently we had to go somewhere for about an hour and she took almost that long deciding what books to take with her. She eventually settled on 6 books. I asked why so many and she informed me that she needed back-ups in case the one she was reading wasn't very good or if she got bored with it. Yeah, she has the curse.

She loves 'em scary and collects all of the Goosebumps books. Over the summer she picked up a book by the same author but was meant more for kids older then she is. It involved teenagers getting killed by a serial killer. She was about 75% of the way through the book and closed the cover saying how the book was scaring her. I told her she should stop for awhile and come back to it later. Her response (while opening the book again) was "No, I HAVE to know what happens next."

Lrakyawnoc said...

Dec, since you write for the bloody thing, you probably saw Bryan Appleyard's similarly themed piece in the Culture mag yesterday in relation to film: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6921956.ece

Karlos

Naomi Johnson said...

Kids are not only tougher than we think, but wiser, too. I make no secret of my belief in not censoring what children read. Left to themselves, they will choose books that interest them and thrill them and make sense to them, and will do them no harm. I see no point in narrowing their field of vision. The world has enough intellectually myopic people already.

adrian mckinty said...

Great post, dodgy Yorkshire accent

Declan Burke said...

Gerard - What is it about IT? I haven't read that book in 25 years, and it's still vivid in my imagination ...

Brian - " ... she informed me that she needed back-ups in case the one she was reading wasn't very good or if she got bored with it."

My kind of gal. I should be ashamed to say that I brought 10 books on my honeymoon, but I'm not ...

Karlos - Missed that piece, squire; ta for the linkage ...

Naomi - "The world has enough intellectually myopic people already." Correct and very true, ma'am ...

Adrian - I'll have you know, sir, that that's actually a dodgy Lancashire accent ... Man, what I wouldn't do to just once get to order one of Betty's hot-pots in the Rover's Return ...

Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

But I found the neighbours complained when I left the children in the street.

How many books did the new Mrs B take?