12 May 2007

Roaring Start for Lionboy

Now that is a fine opening chapter. Right off the mark Lionboy establishes young Charlie's deep affection and admiration for his extraordinary parents without becoming syrupy. His mum accidentally cuts her leg while gardening, and Charlie proudly goes into her lab to fetch the Bloodstopper Lotion.

"Thank you, sweetie," she said, and was just about to lift the lid and drip a drop of the lotion onto her still-bleeding wound, when she hesitated.

"Bring me a pen and paper," she said suddenly.

Charlie fetched one of the strong swirling glass pens that they used for every day, and the green kitchen ink, and a scrap of envelope.

"Proper paper," she said, and he brought a piece of heavy clean parchment from the drawer.

Mum pulled herself up, and as she did so the movement made the blood bubble a little more from her shin. She took no notice. Instead, she lifted her leg, and laid it along the kitchen table, as if she were doing her yoga, or ballet. The parchment lay on the kitchen table; the ink was ignored. Mum took the Venetian pen and cautiously dipped it in the beading blood of her wound.

Charlie stared.

"Don't worry," she said to him. "I just thought of something I've been meaning to do for a while."
What a powerful combination of the quotidian (the pen "they used for every day," the items Charlie knows just where to find in the home he loves) and the almost monstrously strange! And that opening chapter ends thus:
He forgot all about the parchment written in blood, and didn't think about it again until six months later, when he came home to find that his parents had disappeared.
Were Penguin to make that chapter available on the web, it would be a great selling tool.

Instead, the multinational continues to promote the Zizou Corder team as "Already being compared to J. K. Rowling." That's more than disingenuous. As the BBC surmised in 2005, "Almost every first-time children's author published since the Harry Potter books first had global success has been dubbed 'the next JK Rowling'." It's like "the new Dylan" for American music companies in the 1970s. The ravenous British press needs new icons.

And to her credit, Louisa Young, the older half of Zizou Corder, saw through this phenomenon herself in her terrific 2003 article for the London Guardian:
Tragically, I am no longer the New JK Rowling. I read in the paper that one Jonathan Stroud is the New New JK Rowling, and so my brief but glorious reign is over - before, I may say, the book that won me the title is even published. Or, strictly, as it's a three-parter, even finished.

You may think that being the New JK Rowling is an experience granted to few, of little interest to the general reader - but you'd be wrong. New JK Rowlings are ten a penny (which must be galling for the Actual JK Rowling). There was Georgia Byng, Eoin Colfer, Lemony Snicket, Lorraine Kelly and that vicar, and the guy whose mother saved his manuscript from the bin. . . .
(Not to mention Matthew Skelton.)
Basically, I'm pretty sure I was the New JKR because I am being paid what could (though not accurately) be called a Million-Pound Advance - following the logic that whatever six figures your six figures may be, six figures is nearly seven figures, and seven figures is a million quid and a million quid is a headline.

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