A University of Kent graduate was considering taking a creative writing course there. However, he was troubled by a statement on their site:
“We love great literature. We are excited by writing that changes the reader, and ultimately – even if it is in a very small way – the world. We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You won’t write mass-market thrillers or children’s fiction on our programmes. You’ll be encouraged to look deep inside yourself for your own truth and your own experiences, and also outside yourself at the contemporary world around you. Then you’ll work out how to turn what you find into writing that has depth, risk and originality but is always compelling and readable.”
By coincidence this is what I mentioned in the last post where book snobbery rears its head again, in this case a University blatantly claims that children’s fiction is not worth studying or writing, and that if you did write children’s fiction it does not carry the same weight as writing a nine hundred page novel on the internal existentialist angst of humanity.
A number of children’s authors protested against this, their basic argument being who gets to decide what is serious literature and what is not, and their core belief is that this should not even be a question, as there should be no judge and jury.
I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials when I was an adult and was riveted by it, there are countless other great children’s fiction authors out there. Children’s fiction are the first pieces of literature you read, and so much hinges on the impression they leave, if you are still reading as an adult, chances are that no matter how awful the adult book you are reading is you will not toss it aside and never read a book again, which a lot of children do when something they do no like is forced on them.
The reader will decide what is good and bad, and people would argue that surely the university has the right to say what they think is good and bad literature, that is their call, but the way I see it is they did not simply state a book was good or bad, they simply wrote off the entire genre.
There is more than just an element of snobbery in what they said, there is also an intellectual laziness involved, you can’t denigrate a whole genre of literature, whether it is Fifty Shades of Gray and mummy porn or Twilight and twinkly vampires. It’s all literature; some are bad and some are good, but it still sits in the same bookstore as Seamus Heaney and Samuel Beckett.
I’m not sure if it’s a line from a film or a book or both, but it goes a bit like this:
‘Everybody hates me.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, you haven’t met everybody.’
The same goes for books:
‘All children’s fiction is rubbish.’
‘Don’t be stupid, you haven’t read every book of children’s fiction ever written.’