Monday, May 21, 2007

Good-bye to an Editor from My Childhood

Before the irritating Harry Potter became ubiquitous in youth literature, there was an influential British editor called Margaret Clark who shaped some of my juvenile reading. I’m sad to report Margaret Clark passed away last month. According to The Guardian:

Margaret Clark, who has died following a brain tumour aged 80, was one of a distinguished band of children’s book editors who were responsible for changing the profile of children’s book publishing during the 1970s and 80s. They were passionate about the quality of the books themselves and about reaching more readers by publishing a wider range of fiction and picture books which reflected the changing experiences and expectations of contemporary children.
The Guardian’s obituary is here.

Some of us still remember the publishing houses that became imprints when larger conglomerates gobbled them up. One of these was Bodley Head where Clark found herself as a senior editor. I recall reading her “new adults” series which included work by Aidan Chambers -- who I remember reading avidly along with Paul Zindel’s The Pigman.

The Times reports:

Like all the Bodley Head books of these years before the firm’s absorption into the Random House conglomerate, Clark’s were helped towards distinction by the genius of the production director, John Ryder, and it is matter for regret that many of the books whose publication she oversaw have not survived the current fashions.

Lucy Boston, whose later work she edited, paid tribute to her skills in her memoir Memory in a House (1973) and these are seen most notably in her cultivated regard for poetry, conspicuous in her editing of David Mackay’s A Flock of Words (1969) and of the Bodley Head Poets series (1964-72) – great poetry selected by eminent and sympathetic modern writers.

Clark was also foremost among British editors in seeking to cater for a teenage readership through the Bodley Head’s “New Adults” series of fiction, following and sometimes, as with Paul Zindel’s The Pigman, adopting texts from the already busy exploitation of the genre in the US. (An influential British “first” came with Breaktime (1978) by Aidan Chambers.)

In 1980, Clark became the chief of the Bodley Head’s children’s division, and even after her retirement in 1988 she continued with what was more or less a lifetime’s preoccupation with children’s literature.
The Times piece is here.

Margaret Clark was born September 19, 1926 and died April 25, 2007. I celebrate her contribution to my early reading habits. Her efforts still linger in my memory.

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Anonymous Maxine said...

I was sorry to see my "I don't think he is for these reasons" comment to your Harry Potter is irritating post became lost in moderation, and never appeared.

Surely, people don't exclusively read Harry Potter, or one particular author's output. My daughters are keen HP fans but they also read an enormous range of other novelists and genres, classics included. I wouldnt be irritated at people for their choice of reading material, it beats watching TV et al.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 11:12:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

Maxine, I don't know what happened to your earlier comment: we don't moderate them, in any case. (Some type of glitch in the ether, I suspect.)

For what it's worth, I agree with your posit: I'm happy to see people reading and I especially like to see kids with their nose in a book. And the Harry Potter novels certainly qualify on that count.

As you'll have gathered, our contributor, Ali Karim, has some strong opinions regarding the Potter books, which is fine. We strive for balance, though and we have a couple of serious Potterphiles among our contributors. It's all good because, as you suggest, it's all discussion around books and you just can't have too much of that!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 7:16:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Ali Karim said...

Hi Maxine,

Hmm I never saw your post - but Linda is right, I do find J K Rowling's books not to my taste, and I find that her character Harry Potter irritating. But let's not single-out Harry too much, as all the other assorted characters in her books also irritate me, including Bumble-Bee, Dumbell Door, Natasaha, Schooly-D and Biffo et. al.

But look - other people find me irritating, and that is life and one has to put up with other folk's opinions.

Example see the comment at the bottom of this post of mine at THE RAP SHEET -

This irritated me for about a nano-second, but heck, I must have irritated the person who took the huge amount of time to write that interesting, incisive and informative ditto. That person is certainly allowed his / her opinion aired. That's the fun here at Jan Mag and The Rap Sheet. A little controversy is fun as long as it is not personal.

One person's meat is another persons Potter - live and let live.


I will however concede that my opinion may well be in the minority, but I feel that my right to be irritated by young Mr Potter equal to yours to be irritated by me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007 2:59:00 AM PDT  

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