Perhaps this reflects the origins of sensitive reading in fiction for children and young adults. There are good reasons for regulating children’s reading: it is fundamental and formative and can be imposed by school choice or read aloud. It is really important here to avoid oppressive stereotypes.
But Some Kids… is not a novel, nor written for children. Adults are able to put books down if they get in their way, so their books can safely hold difficult ideas. For example, I disagree with my readers that references to appearance, attraction, and sexuality in my book should be removed in case readers are hurt by a metaphor like a child could conceivably be. I think adults can handle binge eating being compared to boils. I also believe that physical human beauty exists empirically, is extremely important to adolescents, and that I can observe its currency and often destructive power, especially for young women, in the classroom. I make an explicit argument about this, which readers may disagree with.
Argument, however, is not a word readers use, or even something they seem to think I should get into. a loud stream of alerts, like a truck backing up: “Selected to take position/express opinion”, “Author gives opinion”, “Position of author”.
I find Excel Reader irritating, but at least they recognize that I’m building a point of view. How Button, on the other hand, thinks I’m accidentally twisting the world because I’m unaware of my “benevolent racism.” It’s exotic, they say, when in my faith column I show a group of young people from diverse cultures and religions discussing the 2015 Paris attacks. because of their origins. , rather than treating them like people, like “normal” children.
But the young people behaved differently that day: that’s why I mentioned it. I sincerely (the author taking a stand) found hope for humanity in their demonstrated capacity for forgiveness and communication. I also believe (author giving his point of view) that I have the right to say so.
My readers, however, were not hired as men of letters. They are there to help create a book that would perform better on Twitter, not a better-written book. I struggle with all of this. I resent, perhaps snobbishly, their language: the vagueness of phrases such as “sounds like the kind of saying that might be considered insensitive these days”, or “white knight tone/verve” (verve?) .
It particularly bothers me when so many of their reviews depend on it, that none of the readers deploy the word “irony”, but rather use “sarcasm”, “joking aside”, and “subtlety”, always as negatives. How Button condemns my entire chapter on awards for “it doesn’t show any of the adults involved in a good light”. Indeed, this is not the case. They are satirized, even though one of them was me.
The weather is changing. In 1997 a second edition of my first collection of poetry, Slattern, was published with Picador. I was delighted and immediately picked up a copy to show at a festival in St Andrews. Two poems after reading it, however, I was surprised to find that the words had been changed.
A copy editor had deemed my irony, commas and word choices too eccentric, and had taken it upon themselves to alter them in several poems. I emailed Picador and the next morning found myself talking (on a payphone) to the legendary Peter Straus, the editor of Picador. He himself noted down every little adjustment and explained that he would order the pulping of the books, the upholstering of the proofreader and the printing of a new edition.