Sunday, October 30, 2011

domestic bliss

When we were younger, breakfast at GlioriSchloss used to look a bit like this. Back then, we fantasized about a future time when we'd actually be allowed to read the Sunday papers cover-to-cover without constant requests from the smaller members of the family for catering services/ quarrel arbitration/ laundry facilities/ taxi services/ toy hospital/ homework-helper and all the other multitudinous tasks in tiny print that parents find they've signed up to with the final pushhhh that ejects the precious little one out into the world. It's a bit like that moment when you've finally downloaded an app, or a program and if you're as fecklessly impatient as I am, you skim all the contractual gubbins and click the blue ACCEPT button in the interests of getting your sticky little mitts on whatever it was you wanted in the first place. Click, pushhhh, DONE.

I mean, did any of us who are lucky enough to be parents really know what we'd let ourselves in for? Hostages to fortune doesn't even come close.

I've been trawling through my artwork archives for the past few days ; ostensibly to locate some artwork for a publisher who wants to re-jacket a picture book, and also to put together a retrospective powerpoint presentation to try and give some idea of what my work has been about. In the trawl, I've been struck by how many of my books are about families. In fact, just about every single thing I've written and illustrated has a family at its core. And looking at the illustrations, I can trace the progression of my own family ; how we grew up, added new members, fell apart and remade ourselves into a new form. Seventy odd picture books, six novels and four works of junior fiction and they're pretty well all about families.

And then...a little bomb went off inside my head yesterday. I was reading the Saturday Guardian in which there was a heartbreaking article about growing up to become a writer by Jeanette Winterson in which she said, 'Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.'

Winterson's story comes straight out of Grimm ; mine is more Hans Christian Andersen, but as I read on, I acknowledged a degree of kinship with this woman whose writing life has been the only way she could make sense of a world from which all sense appeared to have gone. I write about families because the family I grew up in was so fractured and desperately unhappy that try as I might, I still cannot make sense of it. So I'm making up families as I go along. Where do I get my ideas for my books from? I watch my own children, my own family and I am continually amazed by them. They are the best* people I've ever met.

*Even when they require laundry services/ taxis/ dispute arbitration/ loans/homework-helper/ catering etcetera.



3 comments:

Mel said...

Yet had you not recognized you'd grown up in a fractured family, your own family would likely have turned out just as damaged. That they are who they are is no small testament to the love you've given them.

Debi Gliori said...

One big e-hug coming your way, Mel x

Nicolas Roman said...

Dear Debi Gliori

I am writting from Chile, My name is Nicolás Román, I work at Santillana Editorial. Now we are working in a book for second degree of primary school, and I am searching texts for reading activities. We found One of yours, called “Sopa de clavos” (Nail Soup, I guess) included in your book Bedtimes stories. It is possible to include your text on our project? Could you give us your permission? And also I want to know if you have a translation to Spanish of that text. I have the story in Spanish, but I have not the contact to get the license of the translator. The edition that I have is of “Editorial Timun Mas”.
I apologize for my English.
Best Regards.

Nicolás Román
Asistente de Edición
nroman@santillana.cl

Santillana del Pacífico S.A Ediciones
Doctor Aníbal Ariztía 1444
Providencia, Santiago - Chile
Fono: (56-2)384 3165
www.santillana.cl