Rosemary Sutcliff often said she wrote “for children aged 8 to 88” or sometimes “9 to 90”. She once said:
“The themes of my children’s books are mostly quite adult, and in fact the difference between writing for children and for adults is, to me at any rate, only a quite small gear change.”
It is a change of gear clearly beyond author Martin Amis! For Martin Amis told interviewer Sebastian Faulks on BBC 2 TV’s ‘Faulks on Fiction’, broadcast this week: “People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book, I say, ‘If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book’, but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you’re directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable”.
The arts correspondent Rob Sharp of the UK Independent newspaper has reported today that children’s authors have “hit back” at Amis’s “outburst”, quoting Anthony Horowitz, the Alex Rider series creator, Charlie Higson, author of the Young Bond books and Roger McGough, poet and a children’s author for 30 years. What might Rosemary Sutcliff have said?
Physically impaired as she was (but with a fully functioning sharp brain, and social empathy Mr Amis seems to lack) I imagine she might have adopted the understanding, sympathetic tone I heard so often when she was dealing with a ‘does she take sugar’ type comment to me as a young boy, as I pushed her – the famous novelist and the person in the chair – around in her wheelchair.
In fact, I commented on the Independent article that maybe the remarks suggested that Martin Amis already had a brain and social impairment .