Methodius Hayes (methodius) wrote in coinherence,
Methodius Hayes

Another almost Inkling - Alan Garner

Here's something about another almost Inkling, which I posted in my own journal long enough ago to take out for another airing.

seraphimsigrist mentioned Alan Garner, who is one of my favourite authors. I noticed that some of his books had been reprinted and were on sale in the local book shops, and wondered if this was a result of the popularity of the Harry Potter books, which seem to have had the effect of making kids see that books can be as much fun as video games.

I remarked on this in a couple of the newsgroups, and said that until Harry Potter appeared, the only books for kids that I saw on sale in the 1990s were drek like R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series. I was taken to task by a children's librarian, who pointed out that lots of good books had been written in the last decade -- but that did not invalidate my point, which was that I couldn't find them in our local bookshops.

So perhaps one of the spin-offs of Harry Potter will be that another generation of kids can read Alan Garner's books, which in my opinion are much better than the Harry Potter ones.

It was an 11-year-old boy who first turned me on to Garner 35 years ago. He knew I liked the Narnia books, and said I would enjoy The wierdstone of Brisingamen. He was right -- I did!

Most children's adventure/fantasy stories have an obligatory underground tunnel scene, but Garner's is easily the scariest and the most claustrophobia-inducing one of the lot.

His next book, The Moon of Gomrath was even better. Garner took themes from ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon mythology and let modern kids stumble across them, producing "action-packed adventure stories" - his were among the few books for which that description was not a cliche.

These two books were set in rural Cheshire. His next, Elidor was set in urban Manchester, with the blight of urban decay and middle-class suburbia juxtaposed with a fantasy kingdom where a life and death battle was going on.

After that, Garner began to move away from the genre of the childfren's adventure/fantasy novel. His next book, The owl service had teenagers as the protagonists, and was far more psychological. Red shift, which followed, moved even further in that direction.

I think it was a pity. Some have said that there was more depth and subtlety in his later works, but perhaps I'm too much of a kid at heart, and I found Red shift incomprehensible and boring. But I have read and reread his first three books, and I'm glad that, perhaps thanks to Harry Potter, another lot of kids will have the opportunity of doing so too.

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