Sunday, 11 November 2007


I was walking my kids to school the other day and for some reason they started asking me about Taking Comfort. They wanted me to tell them the story, which I had told them before (obviously leaving out the very dark bits and certainly the sex scene), but for some reason they wanted it again. It was almost like they wanted to check they had it right, and that, yes, their dad was as mad as they feared.

But I had the sense that somehow the story made sense to them. A guy feels threatened and overwhelmed by the dangers of the world, so he finds himself taking totems from scenes of disaster or tragedy, in order to prevent similar things happening to him. Somehow a child could accept the logic of that.

A few days later, Luke, who has just turned 8, said to me, "Dad, I'm like Rob." Which I have to say sent a shiver through me.

"What do you mean, Luke?"

"I'm like Rob in Taking Comfort."

I tried to remain calm. "In what way?"

"Well, I was playing football in the playground and the ball kept hitting me in the face, so I went around and picked up a load of leaves from the playground so that it wouldn't do it anymore."

"Ah. Yes. Right. Okay." I tried to explain that it was only a story and that it doesn't actually work. And that Rob does go a little bit crazy in the book.

He seemed to understand this, and though I thought he might be disillusioned, he told me that he is still going to read the book when he's old enough, which he reckons will be when he's 18.

My wife, who had overheard the exchange, was of course horrified. By the leaves in pockets, that is. "Luke," she said, "Will you not put wet leaves in your trouser pockets. It's a hell of a job to get them out."


Aliya Whiteley said...

Hi Roger! For me, the thing that Taking Comfort shows brilliantly is the talismanic properties we give to items. It always reminds me of Homer's lucky stick in The Simpsons.

Conversely, I had an unlucky evening dress for years. I looked great in it but always got dumped and went home crying. When I met my husband, I burned the darned thing before I could be tempted to wear it.

David Isaak said...

I have a tough time understanding how you could tell them the story of Taking Comfort while leaving out the sex and the darker bits. I mean, the story opens with--well, it's your book, I imagine you recall what the story opens with. And then towards the end...and all the middle bits.

Actually, I think Luke's habit may be a nice thing for a kid to do. If you can convince him to pick up things that aren't messy, biodegradable, or belong to someone else.

My niece and nephew kept asking my sister what the story of Shock and Awe was while she was reading it. I don't think she told them, but they did end up naming their new hamster Hammond after one of my characters. It's a good name for a hamster, I think.

Roger Morris said...

I've heard of a lucky shirt, or lucky underpants (!), but never an unlucky dress. Good move burning it!

David, Hammond is a great name for a hamster!

Faye L. Booth said...

Haha - I nearly had a heart attack when my sister told me that my six-year-old nephew took her copy of Cover the Mirrors in for show and tell! I started breathing again when she assured me that she did warn the teacher that it was not suitable storytime reading...