Tuesday 27 May 2014

Explicit v Implicit

Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 1 – ‘The Lovers’ This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. This week our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Lovers’ (the first chapter in Cathy’s poetry collection).   Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants. ***

Implicit v Explicit: The role of literature in educating children about relationships.

It begins in the primary playground. I watched my daughter, then aged 9, open two Christmas cards from her boyfriend, one was public, the other containing 51 kisses (she counted them) was private, it came with a Thornton’s Sicilian lemon bar. Not long after that he dumped her. She campaigned to win him back by buying a football and learning French. I didn’t quite get the French thing. Most of what she knew about relationships came from Disney films and books.

Romantic relationships are a key facet of life and can be introduced through literature quite early. Peter Pan’s love triangle with Wendy and Tink, Bert’s courteous admiration of Mary Poppins, and, more realistically, the romance which unfolds beautifully over nine volumes in Little House on the Prairie.

My own books are full of pairings: Jeopardine and Miss Spindle, Molly cook and Sly, Alas and Lucinda, Oy and Linnet, appear in book 1 of my Duldred trilogy. I very much enjoyed writing about these different, often humourous dynamics.

Literature offers a wonderful and very broad education in the varieties of courtship and the subtleties of human relationships.

It’s sad that this has largely been replaced by the anatomical biology lesson and the no less anatomical sexting of body images, or crudely stereotyped ‘lessons’ from poorly filtered cyber-dross.

By the age of fourteen I had seen Jo March choose mature love for an ageing mentor over a tempestuous match with the dashing, moody Laurie (I still think Prof Bhaer is icky). I had lived with the heavenly hellish obsessive love of Heathcliffe and Cathy. Social equality with the insipid Linley could not survive inequality of passion. Passion went beyond death. Scarlett O’Hara gave a master class in coquetry, wiles and manipulative pragmatism, but also spirit, courage and independence. Her adulterous yearnings for Ashley revealed the allure and idealisation of the forbidden. There was the slow burn of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. The quiet haven of modest, dependable character relieved the fast and literal burn of madness, danger and bestial beauty. In Sons and Lovers Mrs Morel mirrored my own mother, trapped and stunted by rough and narrow masculinity, while retaining her respect for the dignity of labour. If only Scarlett had been there to give Nancy a good talking to when she was abused by psycho Sikes. Then Mammy could have come out and sat on him.

It’s a long time since I’ve read any of these books. It would be interesting to go back and see what they now yield. I’m sure I missed much, but consciously and unconsciously, I learned from thousands of finely graded thoughts and emotions in their pages, all achieved with barely the flash of an ankle.

Implicit v explicit. I know which I prefer.

*** Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from: The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) - we can ship books around the world! and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk. It can also be ordered via your local bookshop. If you’d like to get involved in the ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival please find more details about it here: http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/carnival-2/ Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women: ‘Fantasy, love and oddity.’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her favourite poems about lovers from her second collection of poetry, Look At All The Women. ‘The Walnut Hearts’Marija Smits shares some ‘nutty’ poetry about love and reflects on the role good communication has on a harmonious relationship. Georgie St Clair shares her feelings on why we should indulge our passions as lovers in her lighthearted post — ‘Creative Lovers: Not Tonight Darling’. ‘The Lovers – Or What I Don’t Know About Love’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt about love from story books, people watching and her own life and wonders if she actually knows anything at all. ‘Implicit v Explicit’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines considers literature’s role in teaching children about relationships.


  1. I think you're absolutely right Ana - the implicit is definitely preferable to the explicit. There is so much subtlety in the relationships in the literature that you describe - and it's far closer to real life than explicit cyber-dross.

    It's funny that you mention Professor Bhaer because I actually quite liked him! (And in the 1994 film he was played by Gabriel Byrne which - to my eyes - was good casting!) And I loved the romance between Jane Eyre and Rochester - definitely a sheer masterclass in writing about a 'slow burn' relationship.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog posts :-)

    1. I thought the Prof was ancient - at 39!

    2. Disney has a lot to answer for! I have a 17 month old daughter and the literature that I intend her to be reading is very different to the 'dross' and 'cyber-dross' (like Marija mentions), that I was witness to.

      Good to meet you in the carnival :)