YA/Children's/Adult Books

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Apr 30 07:09:45 EDT 2003


Hallie wrote (and I am still snipping furiously to try to keep our
agreement at under 15K per post!):

>Minnow:
>
>I love 'furiously agreeing' - what a wonderful expression!  My mother
>and a friend used to call this their 'Yeahbut' discussions.  :-)

oh good.  I think it fits, anyhow.

>After all, if we don't keep *some* good stuff
>on the adult fantasy shelves, what are all the teens going to find
>when they want to grow out of YA?  :-)

New authors?  There are going to have to be *some* worth reading!  I'll run
out of new things to read if there aren't.

"YA" didn't exist when I was that age, the closest was probably I think it
was called "Peacock" from Penguin, and people did somehow get by.  In fact,
I believe there was a time in the past when eg *The Water Babies* or *Black
Beauty* or the works of RLS or Walter Scott simply got published as books,
for people to read, and even in that deprived situation people got by.
(And far more of the population, as a percentage, did read, there not being
telly and computergames as alternatives.)

>I understand that you don't agree about the violence, and am merely
>giving you my take on it.  We don't aim for complete, unadulterated
>agreement on the list, luckily!

Acksherly I find the "mother" who is prepared to sacrifice her child so
casually to be utterly chilling, and also don't take the violence in my
stride; nevertheless I do not arrogate unto myself the right (as you don't
neither)
to make any decision about this for anyone else.

[more massive snippage]
>Well, I'd have to respectfully suggest that the idea that children
>are not as squeamish .... etc, is a bit of an over-generalisation.

I have always found children to be remarkably matter-of-fact about all
sorts of things, *unless they know the grownups expect them not to be*.
Then they play up to the expectation, of course.  Just as I did when I was
with a squeamish aunt who always gave one ice-cream to take one's mind off
things *she* found upsetting!  She was also afraid of spiders, which I most
emphatically was *not*, but I found that if I screamed and ran away too she
was good for a treat to help me recover from the shock.  People start to
think "oh poor little me I can't cope waaaaah!" when this is acceptable;
pioneer women or whatever generally don't spend their time being feeble in
this way, because it isn't a survival characteristic and doesn't get them
sympathy and cossetting, just being despised by the others around them.
And I continue to assume that children are people.

>>When DS appeared in 1997, its author cheerfully gave a copy to be read by
>>her god-child who had just turned nine.  So presumably DWJ herself didn't
>>think it was "not a children's book".  (I had to check this as fact before
>>I could state it.)
>Well, that's fine, as she knew the child in question.  But it doesn't
>necessarily mean that it's a good idea to shelve this as recommended
>for age 9 to 12s.  And furthermore, were DWJ herself to say 'in my
>opinion this is suitable for all 9 year olds', I would quite
>cheerfully argue with her!  Subversiveness has to apply to own's own
>authority as well, after all.  :-)

It's the "all", and the blanket nature of the things, gives me a grue.  I
doubt DWJ would be stupid enough to think even for a second that all
persons are the same, at whatever age; dashitall she never wrote any
identical people in her books!

Anyhow and with all due deference, I have been consistently saying that my
entire view is based on one-to-one information, rather than any assumptions
about children-of-age-x-as-a-class.

>>>I think, if you have a
>>>YA shelf right beside the children's one, it's careless to have ALL
>>>the DWJ in children's.
>>There I agree with you.  OTOH, that carelessness is nothing to do with what
>>the *publishers* decided, because it doesn't go along with their categories
>>either...  So in Real Life the system falls over anyway.
>Well, I think it does, actually  (go along with their categories).

But you just said that it didn't!  The shelf with all the DWJ in children's
is patently not following the publishers' guidelines, in your example!

>The point is that Dark Lord was, AFAIK, published as an adult book.
>You've said that was because there was no children's imprint
>available at Gollancz, right?  Now, three years later (sorry, three
>years later than the paperback edition anyway), the book is
>recommended by Gollancz as for 9 to 12 year olds.  Whose carelessness
>do you think it is, if not the publishers?

I think it is because Gollancz (and possibly the original editor, though
I'd have to ask her and hear her say so, because I think she's now
somewhere else  -- Orion, maybe...) recognise that it was written with the
intention that children should read it if they wanted.  And haven't
Gollancz been bought up by some other publisher in the interim?  Somebody
in the biz tell us, please?  I can't keep track of all the changes in the
publishing houses.  At the time they first had Dark Lord they hadn't got a
children's imprint, presumably now they have.

>  What worries me is that the real deciding factor about this and the
>DS bowdlerized YA edition may be entirely mercenary, and almost
>anything that is fantasy, especially anything by an author who is
>recognised as mainly a children's author, will go automatically
>beside Harry flippin' Potter, with no regard for anything other than
>sales.

Very likely.  I don't suppose there are many publishing houses, even the
independent ones, doing it for love of a good read any more.

Which is why I am by no means happy to suggest that bookshops, librarians
and non-reading parents should accept the publishers' guidelines printed on
the books about what is "children's", "YA" or "adult" as impartial and in
no way influenced by self-interest.

>>My position probably could be summed up as "I think censorship is
>>frequently misguided, I don't trust the judgement of the censors, I don't
>>think categories are all that much better, I don't trust the judgement of
>>the categorisers, and anyway as far as I can see it doesn't work, either in
>>general or in particular cases -- and I can't see why it would, really."
>I certainly agree with you about the censorship.  I wouldn't go with
>you so far as to deny the usefulness of all categories - what would
>the world be like without big, cozy children's sections in bookshops?
>I cry - but agree they don't often work all that well.  I wish the
>They responsible would  try to be more sensible, but happily enough
>accept the need for some kind of distinction between books based on
>age categories.

I'd be happier if They would try something other than the easy option, age;
I know full well that a class at school, in which all the squids are within
a year of age, may easily have in it sweet children who have had the
semi-compulsory sex-education classes but were entirely bored by them
because they had no particular interest in the subject, and still read and
enjoy the books they read when they were eight, side by side with young
buds of promise who are shortly going to be teen-pregnancy statistics and
were bored by the s-c s-e classes because they knew more about it than the
teacher, and have given up reading in favour of twocking, if they ever did
read at all.

Has anyone else ever come across Caroline Glynn's *Don't Knock The Corners
Off*, BTW?

>One final Yeahbut:  Your system (at least as I understand it) of
>never denying any child any book, or seeing it in terms of having no
>right to deny any child any book, obviously works fine for you, and
>I've no desire to argue with you about it.   But you have rather
>categorically stated that no one has the right to deny any child any
>book, which I think is heading too far in the direction of saying
>that your beliefs should hold for all families and all situations.

I think you may find that I didn't actually say that in those terms, but
let it pass.  I can't locate it if I did.  Broadly speaking, that would be
my position: given that "no one" is taken as refering not to one-to-one and
knowing the child, but to well-meaning strangers laying down the law.  In
one-to-one situations it's up to individuals: steer away from, yes, or as
with a small child and champagne or a cigar, say "Yes, go ahead if you
really want then" and watch them being put off booze for about ten years or
smoking for life...  Look what being brought up on a diet of "Thou shalt
not" did to poor old Alastair Crowley.  :-(  Seriously: what *is* the point
of trying to forbid people to read something that may upset them?  They'll
find a way to get hold of it anyway, if it matters to them, and how much
worse off they will be if they *are* upset but because they were naughty to
read it, they can't admit they did, and so the parent who did the
forbidding can't help them with the being upset.

My system has as much right to a hearing as anyone else's: if I am to be
expected to accept the diktats of those who feel entitled to make decisions
for me, why shouldn't I demand the right to tell them what to not do, which
in this case is tell them not to interfere in a blanket manner with
everyone's lives?
(not that I expect them to pay any attention, but then I don't pay any
attention to them either, so that's even-stevens.)

It is my experience that forbidding things makes them appear more
attractive and more interesting -- look at the number of people who
ploughed their way through *Lady Chatterley's Lover* just because it was
banned, or *Ulysses*, who would never have bothered if they hadn't been
told not to -- whereas saying something dismissive doesn't have this
effect.  In fact, if I actively wanted a child to read something my first
push in that direction would be to say I wasn't sure s/he was old enough
for that book and I didn't think I'd allow it yet... and then let myself be
argued round to allowing it, as a special concession and so long as s/he
promised to stop if it wasn't fun after all.

>You've given examples in which your behaviour and approach were
>extremely sensible, but there may be other situations for which an
>equally sensible parent may feel it is a responsibility to withhold
>or deny a particular book to a particular child.

But that is precisely what I am advocating.  I am only going to kick their
teeth in if it is *my* child they decide to deny a book to.  Well, no, I
wouldn't bother, I'd just say "yes yes" in a soothing way and then ignore
their decision.

>Oh, and I am not at all defensive about this, you understand, but not
>*all* baby stair falls are on carpeted stairs: we had a baby-gate
>when living in a house with extremely high ceilings and a long
>stair-case down to Saltillo tile - beautiful to look at, but surely
>the most human-unfriendly domestic surface known to man!  :-)

To which my response is "rag rug". :-)   (That's what I did.)

Minnow


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