Distinguishing the work from the author

As cited in a Times article by Nicolette Jones, Archbishop Williams advocates making a distinction between the work and the author of the work. Jones writes:

Philip Pullman, objecting to compulsory inspection by the Independent Safeguarding Authority of authors making school visits, fears that the database to be put into place will “corrupt a child’s view of the world” and make them think “the basic mode is not of trust but suspicion”.

One of the motives for introducing such regulations as this is, no doubt, not the case of Ian Huntley, which has been mentioned everywhere in this context, but the more pertinent case of William Mayne, which no one seems to have referred to.

Mayne went to prison in 2004 for indecent assault of young girls aged between 8 and 16, crimes committed between 1960 and 1975. The author of about 100 books, he had won the Carnegie Medal in 1957 for A Grass Rope and the Guardian Award for Low Tide in 1993. His A Swarm in May and Earthfasts were adapted, in the 1980s and 1990s, for children’s television. The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature described him as “one of the outstanding children’s authors of this century”. In the 1960s and 1970s he already had the seductive aura of fame.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said in a platform conversation with me at the Oxford Literary Festival that he would still recommend Mayne’s books. “The work is not the man,” he said wisely, if controversially. But there lies the problem. However great the work, it does not guarantee the character of the author.

Read it all.

What of the argument that the fame of stars like Michael Jackson sends the wrong message? If we celebrate Jackson’s music does that imply we accept his behavior?

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