Last week, Martin Amis said a few things about writing for children in an interview with The Guardian. This post is my take on his remarks. Reported in the Guardian on the 11th February, Martin Amis’s comments about writing for children:
"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."
"I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write," he added.
There has been offence taken on this comment, quite understandably. However, I think that all Amis’s comments show is that he is ignorant in the area. Any writer would be dissuaded from taking on a project that could limit their freedom of expression and scope, which Amis assumes happens when writing for children.
I think JRR Tolkien, Roald Dahl and Rudyard Kipling, to name but a few, have produced work of amazing breadth and imagination for children that is of notable quality and will remain a part of our culture for years to come.
Writers, who write down to children, patronize and show no understanding of their audience, generally fail. Children of all ages are astute and at times painfully honest, more so than adults.
So I believe that Amis has merely shown ignorance and inexperience in the field of children’s books which is quite sad in this enlightened age.
Photograph: David Levene