22 October 2007

Children's Literature c. 17th century-2007

Children's Literature, that young sapling of creative writing that has enthralled children at bedtime and adults who ought to know better on the long commute to and fro their boring, stupid grown-up jobs in the city, has died of shock following the outing of Professor Albus Dumbledore by that gossipy chronicler of Hogwarts, JK Rowling, during her US book tour - a revelation almost as shocking as Enid Blyton's deathbed admission that the Famous Five were all members of the Hitler Youth, and that Timmy had died shortly after the end of the first book and had - unknown to Julian, Dick, Ann, George and Adolf - been replaced by an almost identical dog shortly before the start of the gang's second adventure.

Children's Literature got off to a slow start in the 17th century with the publication of picture books which contained stories of a mind-numbing simplicity that have only recently been rivalled by the films of Adam Sandler. And when the Brothers Grimm first published their collection of fairytales at the beginning of the 19th century there were sleepless nights all round as children begged to be read just one more chapter of the cruel and magical stories and adults went to bed unable to drop off for fear of the harm they were doing their children, and the angry dwarf they swore they saw lurking in the shadows at the foot of the bed.

Yet children had begun to delight in the magical wonderlands seen through the looking glass, found lurking beyond the wardrobe or inside the gates of the greatest chocolate factory known to man, woman and - most importantly, small child. While some authors enthralled young readers with fabulous tales spun from the wildest shores of their imagination, others set their stories in the more humdrum world of home and school. Yet Children's Literature prospered - quite happily refusing to grow up for nearly two hundred years. Indeed, the feared collapse of Children's Literature brought on by its neglect in favour of video games and crack cocaine on the school curriculum, had been averted, chiefly by the creative genius of JK Rowling in joining the magical world of CS Lewis with countless middlebrow boarding school novels of the mid-20th century in her well-written, exciting, never over-long and - most importantly - highly original series of Harry Potter books(1).

So it was with great surprise and horror that the unexpected death of Children's Literature was precipitated by an innocent question about Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore's lovelife. Save for a chance remark in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Griselda Marchbanks, Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, that the young Dumbledore had "done things with a wand(2) I'd never seen before" there were few clues to Dumbledore's sexual orientation. Indeed the issue had never occurred to most people, especially those in the media who were - rather disturbingly - far more interested in JK Rowling's wealth, Daniel Radcliffe's getting naked on stage and the precise date at which Hermione Granger would "be legal". When Ms Rowling - with an announcement in no way designed to further fill her golden coffers with what little is left of her readers' parents' money(3) - told a packed Carnegie Hall in New York that the Hogwarts headmaster would never get it on with Professor McGonagall, the shockwaves crashed through Children's Literature.

Revelation followed revelation as tearful children and shocked adults still clinging on to the nostalgic sanctity of their favourite bedtime reading from decades past learnt in quick succession that the Mad Hatter had married the Dormouse in a civil ceremony, the Cat in the Hat loathed children and Winnie the Pooh was not just addicted to honey but also "prescription painkillers".

Unable to show its face in public, Children's Literature went into a steep decline and within days of Ms Rowling's outing the last chapter had been read for ever, the bedside lamp extinguished and Once Upon a Time was no more.

Children's Literature will be buried in the St Bookhouse Cathedral of Remaindered Fiction. The service will be conducted by Archbishop Rowling herself. (Service begins at midnight, admission fee £14.99(4), all welcome). The congregation will read from the book of... No, we had that one last night... No, it's my turn to choose...

Children's Literature is survived by the works of JRR Tolkien, Dan Brown and JK Rowling's billions.

(1) Not that we would dare suggest that the billionaire author would ever have the need, let alone desire, to employ a team of the finest and most highly-overpaid lawyers...
(2) No, the wand wasn't Prada.
(3) for the love of God, see (1), Ed.
(4) at time of going to press that is approx $350.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I have also written a childrens book - called "Gary Jotter and the ...." Oh ... is it too late?