I have finally managed to finish Kelly Green's book A Matter of Conscience. I feel a sense of overwhelming achievement, the way one does upon having completed some worthy but exceptionally dull piece of good literature. A bit like finishing Finnegan's Wake, but with fewer laughs. Also, James Joyce is considerably more accessible than Kelly Green; his use of language is clearer and less ambiguous. But hey, don't take my word for it. What do you think that the following sentence is meant to convey?
'Germany seems to be a society in constant struggle with the idea of difference, an interesting case study in irony and backlash when it comes to tolerance and the acceptance of minority groups'
One of the great problems with vanity publishing of this sort is that there is no editor ready with a red pencil to cross through the long and wordy paragraph, the irrelevant anecdote, the pretentious phrase. Without this, any writer is liable to ramble a little and produce prose which is all but indigestible. One can often recognise this sort of writing when the author mentions his great, great grandmother for no apparent reason. A writer like Graham Greene might just be able to get away with this; for the rest of us, it is to be avoided at all costs. How my heart sank when on page 1 of Kelly Green's book, we duly find a reference to her great, great grandmother! (Whose only claim to fame, seemingly, is to have been a Red Indian).
The problems with this book begin on the cover. The blurb reads;
'A family's decisions about the education of children and young people are an intense expression of their very deepest beliefs, aspirations and identity, both collectively and individually'
This is of course complete nonsense. Most families don't give the matter more than a moment's thought; they just send the kid to the nearest school. Deep aspirations don't enter into the matter at all. Still on the back cover, I notice that the book is endorsed by Diana Varty, who is described as a writer. I have certainly seen her comments around lists and forums; she is certianly a home educator, but in what sense is she a writer? More research needed on this claim.
Perhaps the most deadly aspect of A Matter of Conscience is that it consists of little but blogposts from Kelly Green's blog, Kelly Green and Gold. One can read all this for free; why on earth would you shell out eight or ten pounds to do so? The problem is that what works well enough in a brief blogpost is not always suitable for printing in a book. There are rare individuals whose journalism and day to day comments on things are worth putting between the covers of a book. Such people are however few and far between. kelly Green, I am very much afraid, is not one of them.