One of the best things about literary dinners (and last night’s at Quo Vadis – we suffer for our art - definitely was literary because it was in honour of Roddy Doyle) is not necessarily meeting the author – though in this case he was as lovely as his book A Greyhound of a Girl. No, it’s the chance to have no-holds barred conversations about books with other critics and booksellers and to discover that what you thought were your own uneducated prejudices are shared by others. We were talking about defections by authors who have been nurtured by their publishers through the lean years and are then poached – not cool. Shall we mention names? Oh, why not? David Almond – from Hodder to Puffin. Kevin Brooks from Chickenhouse to Puffin. Ok, yes they’ve as much right as any footballer to follow the money and maybe it’s not just about megabucks, maybe it’s in pursuit of artistic freedom or a particular editor but, I don’t know , we just expect more from them. We are – to use that terrifying parental expression – disappointed. You can’t fault Almond’s latest, Billy Dean, but could it have happened without the brave and beautiful publication of My Name is Mina? And as for Brooks, let’s just hope that Naked is a temporary slip from form. Maybe his first few books, written under the wing of Chicken House, just set the bar too high.
(I’m sorry I’m not techno-savvy enough to work out how to put a response section on this blog but I am happy to publish a post from any publishers or authors who want to put forward an opposing view. )
David Almond’s latest book, published simultaneously for adults and children is written entirely phonetically in the voice of Billy Dean, “a secrit shy & thick & tungtied emptyheded thing”. For teenagers, bilingual in textspeak, this is not a problem but adults, particularly the linguistic pedants amongst us (am I alone in wanting to give pre-nup spelling tests to potential sons-in-law?), will find themselves searching for rules and pouncing on transgressions in a distracting game of hunt the inconsistency. ‘Aha! Surely if he’s spelling endles like that, wilderness should have one s…’
Fortunately the sheer visceral quality of David Almond’s prose will win over even the most hardline apostrophe vigilantes. Billy wants the words to “enter yor blud & boans & to infect yor dremes.” And freed of the constraints of spelling this is just what they do.
For my full review see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/8722822/The-True-Tale-of-the-Monster-Billy-Dean-by-David-Almond-review.html