Editor’s Perspective: Those books weren’t about people like me

Editor’s Perspective: Those books weren’t about people like me

By Andrew Mosley | 26/07/2021

Editor’s Perspective: Those books weren’t about people like me

 

All 21 of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books were completed by the age of 11 and I had spent the majority of the time reading them wishing I could live a similar life to Julian, Dick, Anne, George or, indeed, Timmy the Dog.

Yeah, like I really wanted my consumption of lashings of ginger ale while on holiday without my parents at a campsite in the middle of nowhere interrupted by a group of armed smugglers.

I moved on from those to the Secret Seven, which was a collection of 15 stories almost exactly the same as those of the Famous Five, except there were two more in the gang and they weren’t as posh.

Prior to all that I had read Sylvia O’Keefe’s A Pair of Jesus Boots, in which street-wise youngster Rocky O’Rourke dreamed of playing for Liverpool as he wandered the city’s then grimy dockyard streets kicking a ball around and committing minor crimes.

I’ve written about that book before and it still ranks as one that most changed my way of thinking, even though I was about eight at the time.

It was a good start to reading, too good in a way. After that I realised that most works of fiction — and a lot purporting to be factual — weren’t written by people like me and certainly weren’t about people like me.

Moving on to the Famous Five then to books at secondary school by the likes of Jane Austen and EM Forster, I realised they were authored by posh people and about other posh people — luckily I was too old for Harry Potter.

The main characters always lived in stately homes or halls and, whenever they had to interact with one of the unwashed, the lower ranked individual was usually treated badly or patronised.

Occasionally a heir to some estate would fall for a woman who worked in a shop and the family would disapprove, so they would have to leave, with the woman at least getting her hands on some cash and a decent gaff.

Even those books that did have sympathy with the lower classes were written by middle and upper-middle class authors such as George Orwell.

It was many years before there was a breakthrough with the books of the 50s and 60s written by Alan Sillitoe, Shelagh Delaney and John Osborne and carried on to today by Irvine Welsh.

It’s moving back the other way though as books by wealthy celebrities dominate the book shelves as, let’s face it, some crap children’s story by Matt Lucas or David Walliams is more likely to sell than a novel about a council estate in Bradford. The same applies in music — why would a label risk signing an off the rails band led by a new Shaun Ryder when they can peddle some fake-folk tosh by the likes of Mumford & Sons, who have no intention of behaving in any way that might damage the company’s profits?

Everything is about business today, not about quality, but at least it stops people thinking for themselves.

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