We’ve made it to the fifth and final part of our discussion of Patricia Wrightson, and it’s time to look towards the future.
The challenges of Wrightson’s legacy, the power of her storytelling, and the undeniable literary quality of her writing, make it an absolute shame that her books are so hard to get hold of today.
I was lucky that Judith Ridge’s notice of Patricia Wrightson’s death led me to pick up old paperback editions online, and lucky once more that Claire Massey of the Fairy Tale Cupboard led me to Katherine Langrish’s blog, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles.
A post on Seven Miles, ‘Cultural Appropriation and The White Saviour’, addressing Katherine’s own use of Native American myth in her fantasy writing, brings us forward to the 21st century. It pointed me towards the Australian government’s protocols on using Aboriginal culture in literature – a valuable initiative which nonetheless raises further interesting questions about how legal and governmental bodies regulate the imagination!
But ultimately, as Katherine points out: ‘While I find it terribly sad that Wrightson’s books were shunned, I can see also that when so much has been stolen, people are going to feel strongly about ownership of their own stories. Stories are the signature of a culture. And sometimes stories are all you have left.’
I recognise the limits of what we’ve done here at Books and Adventures this month. All I can hope is that, for readers as new to Wrightson as me, these few instalments on the blog have gone beyond the obituaries and given a little more attention to the issues, and existing discussions, surrounding Wrightson’s work.
Let’s give the last word to Mark Macleod, who talked to me about the prospects of a reissue for Wrightson’s works:
‘A very few publishers have shown that they are willing to republish Australian classics, but the problem is that the ‘classic’ presentation they choose has almost no appeal to young readers today, and the sales that result create a self-fulfilling prophecy about the likely level of interest in such writers. Maybe some enthusiast will find ways of making them work in the digital space, by focusing on readers who are not the traditional supporters of literary fiction.’