Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Sunday, June 23, 2002

ex libris: strange boy, strange article

Presentation counts for almost everything, sometimes.

Scotland on Sunday - Top Stories - Fury as schools to stock child gay sex book

You know, I like to think of myself as a rampaging liberal, I really do. I mean, no, I'm not as insane as Nader, but liberal, right? And, you know, the whole gay thing.

And I have to admit, the Scotsman's story about the book Strange Boy left me aghast at the concept. Or rather, not the concept, but .. a ten-year-old having sex? I'm not saying that ten year olds can't have sexual feelings or realize that they're gay. As far as that goes, the actual concept of the book doesn't bother me. It's the idea that an author of a children's book would present a ten year old having sex with a fourteen year old as a good thing to young adults that made me wonder if Mr Magrs was quite off his rocker.

However, taking one article's word for the content of a book -- especially this book -- seemed a bit unwise, so I looked about for a bit more information.

The Guardian contains an actual review of Strange Boy (by Philip Pullman, of all people). And, intriguingly, he doesn't mention the gay sex aspect at all. Curious, really. You'd think the whole "ten year olds having sex" bit would just leap out at him and demand to be talked about, but no, nothing mentioned. He only says, "To deal with that aspect of the book at once: the narrator is a 10-year-old boy who feels an interest in other boys' penises, especially the one belonging to his older friend John, for whom he has a tender and delicate regard. And that's it. He does not mention it often, and very little is done about it. The only people likely to be disturbed by this are professional fusspots, who don't matter."

The Independent's review also somehow fails to mention the whole "ten year old having sex" thing, although it does make more of a mention of the issue of sexuality. Nicholas Tucker notes, Already different from other boys his age because of his intelligence, there are hints that one day David may differ in his sexual orientation. But the polymorphous sexuality of his male peers at school is a reminder of the fluidity, in every sense, of passions at this age. David has to find his own way, drawing on the courage that helps him to renounce his immature father one of a series of characters who are neither villains nor heroes, but flawed humans." His principal issue with the book is that it's really a book about children, but for adults, and shouldn't have been listed for young adults and children at all.

Absent the actual book -- and after all this, I suppose I should have a look, but somehow, I suspect that it will be immensely difficult to find in the US -- I'm assuming that the Scotsman decided that lying about the book's content was a good way to stir up its readers, while pretending to be ever so wonderfully openminded about the whole homosexuality concept. Shameful of them, really.

Posted by iain at 11:35 PM in category