biscuits and lies, books i've been reading, other writers

Oh FFS

Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s children’s book My Sister Jodie is apparently having an ‘offensive’ term removed from all future editions, on the basis of one person’s complaint to a supermarket. ONE. One person, who overrules the author, the editor, the multiple people who will have already discussed whether that word can be included before publication of a book that’s sold 28,000 copies in Asda alone, prior to that ONE complaint. What an excellent lesson to teach young readers on the logic and fairness of the adult world.

The term in question can be amended to ‘twit’ with the adjustment of a single letter, so no prizes for figuring it out. I wouldn’t want to repeat it here, naturally, what with it being so very filthy – though I’m amused that the two are supposedly interchangeable. Roald Dahl’s The Twits has taken on a whole new meaning – a book which, incidentally contains worm-eating, the cruel misuse of superglue, and ‘bare bottoms winking in the sun’, a phrase which has stayed with me across decades.  Won’t somebody think of the children?

I happen to think swearing is both big and clever – when you do it right. There’s a single magnificent use of the ‘c’ word in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (crossover, true, but absolutely something I’d give to a bright 10-year-old) which made the book for me.  Christopher’s Asperger’s syndrome denies him emotional articulacy, but the casually brutal adults around him have no such excuse: it’s a powerful moment, cementing our sympathy and understanding of his actually very reasonable incomprehension of our world. Wilson puts ‘tw*t’ (honestly, how hilarious does that look?) into the mouth of an unpleasant, unempathetic antagonist. Humbert Humbert’s a great big perv.  Raskolnikov kills.  It’s called characterisation. Or is children’s literature not allowed to have that particular grown-up toy?

book_mini  Holiday = books!  Oh, I’ve missed you.  Selected to be as unrelated to Girl Meets Cake as possible, and thus the fabulously eclectic mix of Silence by Josie Henley-Einion (debut literary thriller from a dear old mate, and a cracking read: pacy page-turner, challenging erotica, and above all a truly compelling character study of one woman searching for a coherent social, racial, gendered identity across decades), Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (recommended by M the Wonderagent with typical wisdom: dark, funny, gorgeously economical prose, killer ending, and A PENGUIN), and Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies (your common-or-garden Calvino mindmelt: a musing on the nature of stories, and storytellers, beautiful and strange).

pencil_mini  Girl Meets Cake might currently be titled Woman Meets Caffeine.  I look forward to the forthcoming Writer Meets Deadline more than you can possibly know.

rocrastination_mini  Trucking around Pompeii in the blazing sunshine; discovering my niece has proven her super-brainiac status for good; becoming an auntie x 6 (Writer Meets Nephew next week!); realising that solo holidays are only fun until you’ve found a snack product with the face of Rolf Harris, and you have no one with whom to share him.

rolf

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7 thoughts on “Oh FFS”

  1. Yummy? I’ll happily eat more or less anything, but I draw the line at people who enlivened my Saturday teatimes as a child…

    Agree about the swearing – it sounds like an example where some thought has been given to using the word, it isn’t just gratuitous.

  2. They were yummy. There were ones that looked a bit like Tintin as well, and little guitars. I quite wanted to ask who they were meant to be, but my Italian’s not up to that. 🙂

    Though now thanks to Jess I feel faintly guilty for chomping poor Rolf. It’s not like I minced a womble and made him into bolognaise, woman!

    I don’t believe swear words ever appear in a children’s book without there being thought behind it, and a fair bit of discussion. And certainly not from a former children’s laureate who’s always massively aware of the sensibilities of her audience: I remember her telling us (at that BBC workshop, back in the Whump! days) about agonising over having a character lighting lots of matches and accidentally starting a fire, and whether the consequences and the fact it was an unlikeable character outweighed the possibility of it being copied. Depressing that the publishers have caved, tbh. Although I might be inspired to rush out and grab an unbowdlerised copy…

  3. I don’t think Sir Jacqueline Wilson is the first. I believe Beatrix Potter experienced similar problems. You see, the original text read thus:

    “‘Now my dears’, said old Mrs Rabbit one morning, ‘You may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr MacGregors garden. Your father had an accident there. He was put in a pie by that f*cking bitch Mrs MacGregor…'”

    As I understand, in 1902 there was a huge kerfuffle and several thousand copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit were pulped because one Mrs Padget of Bollywood Gardens, Lempshire, read it to her children and was so shocked by what she read she vomited up her gall bladder.

  4. Susie! Thanks for the Silence mention, and a great review as well. Glad you enjoyed it. Any chance of posting that review on Amazon or Waterstones? Well, I had to ask.

    I agree about the swearing issue, and was almost moved to post something on Michael Rosen’s Guardian blog about it (but have been quite overdosed of the Guardian blog this week). I remember JW saying that about the matches and there was also something about sniffing substances as well. I think that there’s a fine line between representing real children’s real lives and putting ideas into ‘innocent’ heads. One of the reasons I opted for adult literature over children’s is the restrictive nature of the latter. And don’t get me started on age banding! There’s nothing to stop a child from reading an adult book. If anything like Silence had been around when I was thirteen I’d have devoured it (probably under the covers with a torch, lol). And there are at last, thank goodness, some teen books that deal with gender issues and outside-of-the-box sexuality but you still have to search obsessively to find them.

    I loved the Dog in the Nighttime too.

    The Rolf Harris faces are great! Do they sing ‘Tie me kangeroo down sport’?

  5. PS Rarg, good one! Think I must have read the edited version. On the Guardian one of the commenters mentioned an American edition of Winnie the Pooh where Pooh fell out of a tree and landed on his ‘fanny’. Fnar.

  6. Rarg: alas, poor Beatrix, ever victim to the censor. You should see the uncensored version of Jemima Puddleduck: rhyming slang all over the shop… (I owe you a phone call, btw, sorry, am impossibly frantically up to my knees in a manuscript at the moment but will get to it tomorrow I promise!)

    Josie: I’ll be reviewing, don’t worry: will put something a bit more coherent together when I actually am a bit more coherent. 🙂 Rolf did not sing to me, alas. I’m starting to get a bit worried by how much of my time is currently taken up by biscuits that look like boys, come to think of it…

    Are you all done with the book tour now? (Till the global one, natch :P)

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