Children’s fiction is not great literature
Kent University was right – the best children’s books are better written, but only adult literature confronts the range of human experience, says Jonathan Myerson: The Guardian
Come on, University of Kent, why the grovelling retreat? Your creative writing website got it right first time. You know perfectly well that when you made a distinction between “great literature” and “mass-market thrillers or children’s fiction”, you were standing up for something. That Keats is different from Dylan, or, in this instance, that Philip Roth does say something rather more challenging than JK Rowling, that Jonathan Franzen does create storylines more ambiguous and questioning than Stephanie Meyer’s. What’s so wrong with that? I’ll go forward carrying the banner even if you won’t.
Like Kent, we at City University take on creative writing MA students specifically to write literary novels – so we are quite ready to define what’s required to write for adults as opposed to children. It isn’t about the quality of the prose: the best children’s books are better structured and written than many adult works. Nor is it about imaginary worlds – among the Lit Gang, for instance, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy and Michael Chabon have all created plenty of those. It’s simpler than that: a novel written for children omits certain adult-world elements which you would expect to find in a novel aimed squarely at grown-up readers.