William Mayne update

Ika blake at gaudaprime.co.uk
Sat Mar 27 13:35:35 EST 2004

Sallyo asked:

> How do you think this impinges on his work as a writer? Before this, he
> was
> much admired (even if not read a lot lately). Do you think there will be
> some revisionist readings and hasty droppings of his stuff from
> collections
> now? Or will his work continue to be esteemed? Lord Byron did some pretty
> weird stuff in his time, and so have other writers (Poe, etc), but their
> work is still admired. Lewis Carroll seems to have had a slightly odd
> relationship with children too.

And Deborah responded, in part:

> Does anybody read Alice any differently just because Alice Liddell was
> the object of the author's gaze?  I don't, but that might just be me.

I don't think I do either. On the other hand, I haven't been able to read
Anne Sexton's (once-)lovely, lyrical poetry about her daughters'
adolescence since I found out the daughters claim she abused them, so this
sort of information sometimes does make a difference to my reading.

I think T H White is an interesting compare-and-contrast here, because
there's a degree of parallel between the sexual cross-generational
relationship(s) in his life and the non-sexual cross-gen relationships in
his work, which doesn't seem to be the case with William Mayne or Michael
Dorris. So that makes it a little harder to distinguish between the book
and the writer, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, when THW got together with a much younger boyfriend,* he wrote to
some friends that "I have found my Wart". So the Merlin/Wart relationship
in the books could be taken as a model for a romantic relationship - at
least by the author of the books. (There's a wicked essay on this, but I
can't find my copy of it, I'm afraid. I also can't remember whether it
said exactly how old THW's partner was.)

*I don't think there's been any suggestion that this was anything other
than a loving and consensual relationship, by the way: in fact I remember
reading that THW quit teaching at prep schools because he was specifically
attracted to boys of his students' age, which I thought was admirable.
Like Otter says:

> As Pat Califia-Rice once pointed out [these are not his exact words],
> you are not responsible for [and should not be blamed for] what turns
> you on, but you are responsible for what you do about it.

So, again, the information doesn't adversely affect the way I read the
books. But I've always been slightly surprised that the information [that
the author thought the adult-child relationship could be read as romantic,
and took it as a model for his own crossgenerational relationship] hasn't
affected the *popularity* of THW's books: so maybe Mayne's books will
surprise me by going on being read and collected and canonized, too. (The
name's familiar, but I can't remember whether I've read any, so I don't
know what I think about his case myself.)

Love, Ika

"It's brilliant, Bernard. Really, it is. Just two really small changes.
Instead of the academic, the daughter and the journalist, perhaps it could
be an elephant? And instead of the Stalinist purges, the divorce and the
investigation, maybe he... loses a balloon?"
- Manny is the best beta-reader ever in Black Books
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