There’s an mildly interesting spat in the press at the moment and, being about drugs, is just about within my remit. Novelist Julie Myerson has written a book The Lost Child, which weaves two stories. The first is about Mary Yelloly, a girl who died of tuberculosis in the 1820s leaving a album of precocious watercolours; the second about her son, whom she and her husband threw out of their house aged 18 because of his fondness for cannabis and the ensuing family disruption.
Given that young people in crisis usually do better with more, rather than less, support, can this really have been the only appropriate course of action? Teenagers are often pretty foolish (but not me obviously) and most of them see sense fairly quickly. Mark Twain captures this process nicely:
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years
Myerson said in her initial interviews that her son had consented to be written about, an assertion that he has since disputed. It’s hard to see the justification for writing about one’s family in this way as Jake, her son, has now had his business widely aired and will have to live with the consequences, whilst someone else takes the literary acclaim. Myerson has said that her motivation for publication was to help other people in a similar situation, but does this wash? Or is it that Myserson has fallen for the narcissistic trap that befalls so many celebrities: the notion that they are different to the rest of us and so important that we, their people, cannot possibly not wish to know.
Why I had to write the book about my son’s drug trauma Guardian 1 March 2009
Terence Blacker: Writers should spare their families Independent 3 March 2009
How could any mother throw her son out of the house for smoking dope – and then profit by writing a book about it? The Daily Mail 5 March 2009 (I’ve included this as a link, but for some reason the tone of it makes me feel really cross)
Update: if I’d have known how big this story was going to be, I probably wouldn’t have bothered posting about it. Today in the Guardian This is an emergency Jonathan Myerson justifies his and his wife’s decision to publish. This now has the air of an unseemly family squabble; Myerson’s tone reminds me of Reefer Madness
If anyone else has an opinion about this, please leave a comment below