Wednesday, 28 February 2018

ORGASMIC CONCEPTS, MAGIC BOWLS and EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING, by Enid Richemont.

My latest children's book with Franklin Watts is called "MORE", and it's a re-telling of the classic folk tale of the magic bowl which fills itself with whatever food you might wish for, as long as you follow the rules which aren't really that difficult. However, there wouldn't be a story unless something goes disastrously wrong. There's a Grimms version of it, involving a poor soldier returning from war, whose bowl is stolen at an inn and then misused, but there are many others. 

In my version, it's a greedy maharajah with a serious eating disorder who covets the bowl. and here he is in all his overblown glory, as portrayed by my brilliant illustrator Shahab Shamshirsuz. The maharajah will demand the bowl owned by the young son of a poor family (which of course he gets because they have no choice) and takes it back to his palace in order to stuff himself whenever he feels like it, but oh dear! There is a quite serious problem which only one person can resolve, and it's not the maharajah.

Here's the cover image by the same artist - I love it!

These books are part of a graded reading scheme in which I became professionally involved quite a long time ago, The advances aren't great, but the PLR plus the fact that they sell directly into schools makes up for that, and the illustrators are a joy to work with. The downside? Every text has to pass under the gimlet eyes of the 'educators' whose feeling for language is often almost totally absent, so conflicts do arise. I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that making real books available to children, books available to read or borrow, for free, in public libraries is the best answer to any literacy problems, plus the excellent work of wonderful publishers like Barrington Stoke who specialise in books aimed at the dyslexic. Public libraries were where I really got close up and intimate with literature - books my working class parents couldn't afford and wouldn't have bought anyway.

Recently I've become increasingly aware of structural problems in novels - is it that I'm becoming more stroppy? A publisher had such confidence in one of his  newly published novels that he turned over a third of it into a free download, daring you, the reader, not to want to read the rest of it, and he was right in my case - the plot grabbed me by the throat, and I simply had to go on reading, so I bought it to read on my Kindle. The trouble for me was that the two thirds or so left felt rushed and over-complicated - so many threads to tie up, so many challenging thoughts the author wanted to throw at me, that I completely lost that feeling of intimacy with a master-storyteller (which this author clearly was) running with, and exploring, a wonderfully preposterous idea.


Novels are like love affairs, and this one seemed to begin with the orgasm and then end with deconstruction (happens in real life, too, but doesn't make a good story.) As a writer, I'm only too familiar with this problem - you're totally in love with a fantastic concept, a "what if?" and you run with it, and then it takes you into a myriad unexpected small and complex pathways all of which you somehow have to deal with - been there, and done that. How I envy people who can map out, from the beginning, precisely where a work is going. And as for this book, which shall be nameless as it is extremely readable, and I wouldn't want to be a spoiler, the initial orgasm is indeed breathtaking.

http://www.enidrichemont.org.uk 

4 comments:

Umberto Tosi said...

Like you, Enid, I wish I could map out my stories, but just have to trust that bowl of ideas to keep overflowing no matter how shaky my belief in it each time. Your retelling of these magic tales sounds delightful and inspiring, as are the illustrations. Good luck with it all.

Enid Richemont said...

Thanks, Umberto. Re- the magic bowl - there was a goddess involved. Useful, goddesses, especially the ones with several sets of arms...

Anonymous said...

Ha, now I’m intrigued! So agree with you about modern novels often lacking a good plot structure. It means that however gripping the premise is, I lose interest at some point and finishing the book becomes a grind.
I love the look of your version of the magic porridge pot, with the splendid illustration of the far too well nourished maharajah. My favourite take on the theme is The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsey, in which the joy of having a pudding that constantly renews itself is offset by the pudding itself being extremely grumpy and obstreperous.

Dipika Mukherjee said...

What lovely illustrations!