William Mayne update

Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 29 20:28:00 EST 2004

On Wiliam Mayne admitting his guilt of sexual
assault I said

>> Shocking. Leaves me speechless.>

Sally 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.

ODWJM... I seem to recall DWJ saying at leasttwo 
writers she knew didn;t like children At All.

WH Auden wrote in "In Memory of W. B. Yeats d.
Jan. 1939": (Fuller quotation below)*

Worships language and forgives everyone by whom
it lives,"

However, I suspect there are people whose work is
now as forgotten as the crimes that made it
unpublishable, how would we know!
Certainly each case is different, depending I
suppose on the crime, the work and the
relationship between the two. Also of relevance
is whether the author (artist etc) or any
victims/complainants are still alive.

Otter said

<For me I don't think it will destroy the books I

enjoy.   I think it might matter more [to me] if
he had written more about girls.  As it is, most
of the stories I like are about boys -- 
Earthfasts, A Swarm in May, etc.>
Interestingly, although he is known for his
writing about boys, those of his works that I
remember most vividly do feature girls as well:

Cuddy, where a girl is disturbingly possessed by
St Cuthbert

The one set in NZ where severaL children (at
least one girl) are swept away in an old ship and
discover an abandoned village and its last, lost

One set on a Yorkshire farm, featuring a farmer's
daughter and a sliding rock.

Cradlefasts, with an odd disabled little girl. 

Minnow asked
<Has the
story surfaced anywhere but The Guardian, and a 
two-sentence filler in The Independent short-news
column?  If it isn't made into a "story" to any
great extent, it may well go equally unnoticed by

most people.>

According to GoogleNews it has featured in The
Sun, The Telegraph, a couple of Scottish papers
and an Australian one (he has written books set
in oz irrc). It was also on the local news here
in Yorkshire. Also for what its worth, people I
have spoken to about it don't know who he is
until you mention the BBC productions of
Earthfasts etc. 

<We discussed this at dinner (my mother, my
sister, the girls and I) 
and didn't come to any firm conclusions either. 
The one thing we all 
felt was that it seemed much worse (not that
there would be a 
'better' to this at all) that it was the respect
Mayne had earned as 
a children's writer that seemed to enable him to
a great extent.  The article in the Times said
that most of the girls were fans, and fascinated
by his fantasy books, and most had originally
sent him fan letters.  Ack, getting incoherent

On the contrary, quite to the point I think
Hallie. It was the use of the books themselves in
his web of seduction and coercion that was most
disturbing to me also. Like a lot of abusers he
was in a position to choose potential victims
from among a larger group, in this case his fans
(based on things like their vulnerability, the
gullibity of their parents and so on) and then
employed the tactics of "grooming" to make their
exploitation possible. I think there are distinct
parallels with the criminal careers of pop stars
like Gary Glitter and Jonathon King. It is becuse
of this and because the crimes are still living
in the minds of his victims as well as Mayne
himself that his work is irrevocably tainted for
me now.

Certain things about the books I mentioned above
that strike me:  that if I were to reread Cuddy
in particular I would have a more sinister
interpretation of the old saint's relationship to
the young girl and then there may be something
lurking in these ships and rocks that carry
children away, Right now I'm unwilling to find

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

I do, but because I remain unsure of exactly what
did go on and because I am not particualarly fond
of the Alice books and because they are all long
dead it does not disturb me anywhere near as
much. However the guy I knew at university who
was writing a thesis on Carroll and liked to show
photos of Victorian child prostitutes to young
first year women ..... now he gives me the
retrospective creeps. 

*Time that is intolerant 

Of the brave and innocent, 

And indifferent in a week 

To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives 

Everyone by whom it lives; 

Pardons cowardice, conceit, 

Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse 

Pardoned Kipling and his views, 

And will pardon Paul Claudel, 

Pardons him for writing well.


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