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Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood

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1965-09-16 Belfast Telegraph.jpg



ONE OF the compensations of parenthood is the excuse it provides for reading again the books of one's childhood. At the moment, I am working my way through "Winnie-the-Pooh" as slowly as the younger members of the family will allow.

"The House at Pooh Corner" was the first school prize I ever received—and, thanks to the war, almost the last. I would rather have written lines like "I could spend a happy morning seeing Piglet, And I couldn't spend a happy morning not seeing Piglet" than almost anything in English literature.

The other evening the BBC showed an extract from a coming film about Pooh. It is one of Walt Disney's productions, which makes my heart sink, but at least the drawings seemed faithful to E. H. Shepherd's illustrations apart from a Christopher Robin closer to the 1960s than the 1930s.

But the film is presumably why Methuen publish to-day the Pooh paperbacks, four A. A Milne volumes which add up to as good a ten bob's worth as you will get this Christmas. According to the publishers, three million copies of the Pooh books have been sold in the last 40 years, which is a much smaller number than the likely cinema audience. I hope Disney doesn't merchandise the poor bear to death.

I have no absolute bias against adaptations for the cinema or television. Original screenplays have usually made the best films, but occasionally the screen matches the qualities of a distinguished novel—as, for example. in "All the King's Men" a few years ago.

But for many people. I fear, the film supersedes the book, Disney is now the author of "Swiss Family Robinson," of "Pinocchio," of "Treasure Island," and so on.

Only a minority of cinemagoers are encouraged to go back to the original. It would be like seeing the film twice, most assume, and how many films are worth seeing twice?

(By the way, children, you can give up reading the Bible. There's a film version of it on the way as well.)

I started off to write something nostalgic about the books of childhood, and now I am launched into an attack on the growing by-products of literature. So be it.

Writing is joining washing machines, motor cars, pop stars and clothing in the world of built-in obsolescence. Whatever talent shows in a successful book is thinned out in TV appearances, newspaper articles, film versions, even strip cartoons.

It has happened to Ian Fleming—an unlikable minor talent, but a talent nonetheless— whose books are now the subject of other books, as if he were a writer of consequence. It has happened equally to Noddy, who is as much a figure on a cereal packet as a character in children's fiction.

Take a TV series like "Dr. Who" or "Stingray." A few years ago, an idea of this sort could coast along indefinitely as a radio serial, perhaps, or a strip cartoon or a series of books. (Remember Tarzan and Superman?)

To-day, ideas are flogged to death. Dr. Who is looking vainly for something with as much impact as the Daleks. Stingray is to be replaced by Thunderbirds.

Authors of greater substance get built up and, as rapidly, torn down. I would doubt the chances of any author of children's stories surviving to-day's high pressure salesmanship, unless he or she slipped past unnoticed.

Where are the contemporary successors to Pooh or Toad of Toad Hall or Alice or even the Swallows and Amazons? Other than the Borrowers. they are hard to see. The last of the Billy Bunter books was posthumously published this month, 57 years after "The Magnet" and Greyfriars School were launched. How many of to-day's heroes will endure one-third as long?"

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  • APA 6th ed.: Wallace, Martin (1965-09-16). Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood. Belfast Telegraph p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Wallace, Martin. "Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood." Belfast Telegraph [add city] 1965-09-16, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Wallace, Martin. "Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood." Belfast Telegraph, edition, sec., 1965-09-16
  • Turabian: Wallace, Martin. "Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood." Belfast Telegraph, 1965-09-16, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood | url=!_The_heroes_of_my_childhood | work=Belfast Telegraph | pages=9 | date=1965-09-16 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=27 May 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Tarnished! The heroes of my childhood | url=!_The_heroes_of_my_childhood | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=27 May 2024}}</ref>