Posted in:

On John Marsden: Writers on Writers

I keep coming back to John Marsden. What makes him so fascinating to me is that he approaches writing for young adults with a whole philosophy of what it means to be a teenager – a philosophy that’s embedded in the two schools he runs, but also in his early experiences with mental illness and hospitalisation. His perspective raises interesting questions about YA fiction – how much darkness is allowed, before you are considered a “bad influence”?”  Alice Pung.

How does one go about reviewing such a wonderful look at John Marsden through the eyes and personal experience of Alice Pung, herself an award winning author, and be able to make some sort of coherent sense of the review, is the question.  A possible answer may well be to say, the immense respect a man such as John Marsden has earned over his career as a teacher and author, is something very special, particularly when it comes from fellow authors.

In her writing Pung has the wonderful ability to make the reader feel as if she is there with you,  having a one on one conversation, talking about a subject that is dear to her heart, a subject she wants you to understand and share.

As she talks about John Marsden and the influence he has had, not just on her writing but on her young life as a school girl of 14 years, a time when she discovered his work as a set piece required for year 9 studies, the true beauty and passion of her writing becomes apparent.

Discovering that there really was far more to life than she had so far experienced, growing up as the child of Cambodian immigrants in Australia during the 1980-2000’s, was in part due to this man and his wonderful stories aimed at her generation, her age group, treating teens people preparing to enter the real world of hard knocks and not always nice outcomes.

She begins her reflections in the form of a letter to John Marsden, letting him know when she first became aware of him as a real person, which was the day her friends Mum crashed her car into his. Until that time Marsden was an author of fantastic books, a man who was unreal to year 9 students; some mystical, magical person who wrote wonderful words, that became books, to enthral and enrich.

That she later became to know him as a friend and mentor simply adds to the richness of the writing, which is absolutely, deliciously, enjoyable.

Not a large book, nor a heavy read, it is one that can be read in a few hours, enjoyed and then returned to once again, to soak up the all the little bits that go to making a rich, lovingly told story, about a man who is to be admired, respected, and his works, which will be enjoyed by many more generations.

Alice Pung on John Marsden is one book in the series of Writers on Writers, where six leading writers, each offer a reflection on another Australian writer who has inspired them in their work, which make up a light and enjoyable series which is to be applauded, as it offers a fresh take on the rich literary history which is a treasure trove of uniquely Australian stories and history.

AuthorAlice Pung
PublisherBlack Inc Books - Writers on Writers
DistributorBlack Inc Books
ReleasedOctober 2017