Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Doing It For The Kids

There’s a scene in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie in which - spoiler alert - the main character, the hyper-intelligent chimpanzee Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), speaks. It’s a dramatic moment, as you can imagine, although I did think the filmmakers were over-egging the pudding unnecessarily: language and speech separates humans from every other species on the planet, but verbal communication isn’t a function of intelligence only; it also depends on physical evolution, and the development of the vocal tract, which took a couple of million years in the pre-human species.
  What’s undeniable, though, is the crucial importance of speech, language and storytelling to the human race. Not long ago, an Irish Minister for Education made a pronouncement along the lines of a child deprived of books and storytelling is in effect an abused child. The words he used were a bit strong, I think, but I agree with the sentiment: every child should be exposed to books, language and storytelling from as early an age as possible. At its most basic level, a mastery of communication is essential to function in the world. For those to take to it, however, and thrive on words and stories, it’s a doorway into another world entirely, and a way of seeing the world - and in theory infinite worlds - in a whole new dimension.
  And so Lily and I trotted off to our local library a few weeks ago for the very first time, and delighted I was to discover that being three years old was no bar on her joining the library; indeed, there’s no minimum age at all. Lily has loved books for quite a while now (any kind of storytelling, actually; she’s as happy watching a princess movie on TV as she is reading), although it does make her a little sad that Daddy’s books are ‘broken’ - i.e., that they’re all words, and no pictures ...
  I have no idea of how far Lily’s love of books and stories will take her. Maybe it’s just a phase she’s going through, and she’ll grow out of it. But it’s only in retrospect that I realised that my own home was fairly stuffed with books when I was a child, and that reading stories, and being told stories, was so commonplace as to be unremarkable at the time. Part of me wishes that she engages so fully with books, language and stories that she grows up to write her own, because to my mind there’s no finer way to waste your life; although part of me, too, hopes she doesn’t, because there can be a lot of lonely heartbreak involved. Still, on this day, which is a Red Letter Day for yours truly, with my latest tome being officially launched, all I can say is that books matter far more than whether or not one more writer or less gets his book published. What matters more than anything, I think, is that the wonderful world of words and language and stories is made available to our kids. Sweet dreams, Boopster …