Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Subject Close to my Heart - Lucy Coats

It's a new school year and all over the country teenagers are discovering the joys of moving up to 6th form studies--my own Lovely Daughter included.  The A-level choices have been made, and it's about now that the English Lit students discover what books they have been set.  In Lovely Daughter's case this means (so far) Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the poetry of Dannie Abse and Philip Larkin--and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. 

It has given me surprising delight that a child of mine has chosen to study a subject so very close to my heart.  Writers' children are obviously exposed to the idea of books from a very early age--but that doesn't necessarily mean that they want to study English Literature.  In the case of Lovely Son, who is an avid reader of all things Napoleonic, History was his choice.  So now what?  Do I let her get on with it?  Of course. Discovering for herself what she thinks about these books is the whole point. But she's done me the honour (and I definitely feel it is an honour) of asking me to re-read the stuff I already know, and to read the stuff I don't, so that we can discuss it (and, if I know Lovely Daughter, argue about it).  I haven't read Heart of Darkness since I studied it at school myself. Larkin I know and love, and Abse I am looking forward to discovering more of.  As for The Road, we'll both be opening that for the first time. 

To be asked to share anything with a teenager is a small, victorious vindication of parenthood--a sort of signal that normal conversation may not be the total impossibility it seemed 2 or 4 or 6 months ago.  For me, this potential daughter/mother communication about books makes me realise that the hours and hours of patient going over and over spellings (and the wiping away of endless tears over the trauma that is learning to read when you are dyslexic) has brought us both an incalculable reward.    Whether we disagree profoundly or agree amicably doesn't matter--the fact that we now share a love of books is prize enough for me.  I'm the second generation of book-loving writers in my family.  Will Lovely Daughter be the third?  Who can tell?--it's up to her anyway.  Meanwhile, I'm polishing the rust off my brain and preparing for the debate.  I can't wait.

14 comments:

Miriam Halahmy said...

I've followed Danny Abse since I was a student. He's a lovely poet and has recently written very movingly about his wife's death.He has also written his autobiography, well worth reading. He picked one of my poems out for commendation in a poetry competition a few years back.. He lives around the corner from me and I stop and chat to him in my coffee bar, Costa in Golders Green, in between writing my novels. I hope your daughter enjoys his work.

Lucy Coats said...

I'll look out for the autobiography, Miriam--thanks for alerting me. How wonderful that he picked one of your poems.

Mary Hoffman's Newsletter said...

All three of our girls did Eng Lit A level and, in Rhiannon's case, a degree in it. And Bex's drama degree was not a million miles away from he subject!

There are few joys greater than having a goods discussion with a friend about a book you've both read, especially if you've both enjoyed it, and if that friend is an adult child, that's a huge bonus.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

I loved Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy, but I am too timid to read The Road. However, I think you will really enjoy his powerful writing, Lucy.

Lucy Coats said...

As always, you are right, Mary. Lovely Son and I have great chats about the fantasy and military genres. Luckily I am omnivorous in my reading habits!

Yes--I loved the Border trilogy too, Sarah. The Road seems to be a new departure for him, genre-wise. He's next up, after HOD.

adele said...

The Road is marvellous. You will both have a lot to say about it I'm sure. There are things in it that are hard to take but McCarthy writes in a way that's so awe inspiring that he transcends the hideousness of some of what he's writing about. A very interesting choice for a 6th form syllabus. Discuss!

Lucy Coats said...

Aarrggh! Adele, you just gave me a hideous flashback with that 'Discuss!'. I shall--in my own time!

Stroppy Author said...

Big Bint hated doing anything to do with discussing books (in writing - happy to do it in the kitchen!) so I didn't get that particular A level delight. Lots of discussion of Sartre (for French), loads of science, and quite a bit of Mussolini's foreign policy, though. It's a delight - enjoy it, Lucy!

Debs Riccio said...

This made me cry (in a good way) my Lovely Girl has just begun her A-Level Lit classes and already we're both lying on her bed 'discussing' - in this case 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' - it's a joy, isn't it?

Katherine Langrish said...

And my younger Lovely Girl is off to uni this weekend to study English and Music - lovely post, Lucy, and so true. I remember (whenI was a LG myself) propping up the Raeburn and discussing Chaucer and Spenser with my own mother. It's a gift.

Kate Collings said...

As my son is only 18 months old I won't be discussing much more with him than Thomas The Tank Engine and singing nursery rhymes!

I feel enthused to start a reading / book club so I can read the afore mentioned (Danny Abse etc not Thomas The Tank) and have more detailed conversations than the dribbly replies of goo goo ga ga!

Thanks for sharing, take care
Kate Collings
xx

www.katecollings.blogspot.com - always welcoming new followers, guests and comments xx

Lucy Coats said...

So good to hear that others are having this kind of 'bookjoy' too. Kate--Radio GooGooGaGa will not last forever, so enjoy it (including the dribble) while it lasts. But a book club to remind you that intellectual pleasures still exist is is great idea.

Stroppy Author said...

Kate - where do you live? I am starting a reading group for young parents starting 4 Oct in Cambridge. Get in touch if you're in the area!

Kate Collings said...

Hi, well I am based in Letchworth which isnt too far from Cambridge but right now I am without a car. Thank you for thinking of me though! I will deffinately ask around the area to see if anyone else is interested in starting up a new group. Thanks KC xx

www.katecollings.blogspot.com - always welcoming new followers, guests and comments xx