Quill and Quire

Book news

« Back to
Quillblog

Childrens’ authors lash out at Amis’s “brain injury” remark

Last week, the notoriously reticent and withdrawn British author, Martin Amis, appeared on a BBC book program called Faulks on Fiction, during which he mulled the possibility of writing for children: “I say,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.” He went on to say that he would never employ any form that forced him to “write at a lower register than what I can write.”

As night follows day, Amis’s comments met with a backlash from advocates of children’s fiction, in particular author Lucy Coats and Jane Stemp. Coats called Amis’s remarks “arrogant twaddle,” while Stemp, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said, “I have brain damage … So Amis couldn’t have insulted me harder if he’d sat down and thought about it for a year.”

From the Guardian:

Coats said that as a children’s writer she certainly did not “write down” to her young readership. “Children are astute observers of tone “ they loathe adults who patronise them with a passion, adults who somehow assume they are not sentient beings because they are children,” she said. “When I write fiction, I research and plan just as (I assume) Amis does. Then I sit down and let what comes, come. The story generally tells itself without any inner voice saying, ‘Oh, but you’re writing for children “ you mustn’t say this, or “ oh goodness, certainly not that!'”

This is hardly the first time Amis has got into hot water over intemperate public remarks. Who can forget Amis on senior citizens: “How is society going to support this silver tsunami? There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants stinking out the restaurants and cafés and shops.” Or Amis on Islamic states: “I am just saying some societies are more evolved than others. Young men in those kinds of societies are growing up full of loathing and hatred. Something has to be done about it.” Or Amis on women: “Women should have got something really fixed before they did something else but they wanted to accrue more power. Men and women should have agreed to do 50:50 in the home and I believe a great deal would have followed from that, but they didn’t “ the women went Napoleonic.” Or Amis on Britain: “You don’t go from being the main power on earth to being a third-rate power without it awakening deep feelings of wounded pride.”