Writing is interesting… one person’s meat is another person’s poison. At one end of the spectrum you can have people saying your book’s the best to come out since Pride and Prejudice (or whatever), and at the other, people lining you up for a book burning. So what’s a reader supposed to think? Here are some authors who have been showered with both roses and triffids (sometimes simultaneously, for the same book)…
- Junk, Melvin Burgess. You know you must be doing something right when you create mega controversy *and* win a prestigious award at the same time. Melvin Burgess did this with Junk in 1996. The book won the Carnegie Medal, and Burgess writes on his website that the fuss was like “there was a free pack of soft drugs with every copy!” Junk is about Gemma and Tar, two fourteen year olds, and their journey through the world of drugs, from initial buzz to bitter end. This was published as Smack in the United States. We have both Smack and Junk in the library – they’re the same thing.
- The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger. Fancy writing a book with teenagers swearing in it. I mean, if teenagers read this book, they might get ideas. Having said that, it was the 1950s.
- Wide Awake, David Levithan. Set in the future, with the political backdrop of a gay Jewish man being elected as president of the United States of America.
- The Ghost’s Child, Sonya Hartnett. Sonya Hartnett recently won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. She’s also won numerous other awards and had her first book published when she was 15. While The Ghost’s Child is not a controversial book some of her other work has definitely caused raging storms – she doesn’t seem to be afraid of tackling anything.
- Necklace of Kisses, Francesca Lia Block. She received a lifetime achievement award from the American Library Association a couple of years after publishing Wasteland, a book about incest.
- Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre. Not only was this book controversial, the writer himself has been too – he used his Booker prize winnings to pay off some troublesome debts (so they say)…
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. Dealing with the subject of what is a living creature and what is not, Frankenstein touches on subjects debated hotly in scientific circles at the time the book was published (and still today). Way before its time and still relevant. [An aside: the story goes Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron decided one day to have a competition to see who could write the best monster story. Mary wrote Frankenstein and the two guys wrote, well, poems of no consequence. You go girl, and all that…]
- The boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne. ‘Far too obviously allegorical,’ a lot of liberal-minded people complained on intellectual list-serves… ‘sounds too much like an adult pretending to be a small boy,’ others moaned (that might have been me)… ‘we absolutely loved it!’ most readers cried as they turned back to page one to re-read it. You decide for yourself.
It was a big ask. I crashed and burned trying to come up with 10 in one go. Will keep thinking and add a couple more if I become more enlightened.