June 21, 2009

The Duck-Handled Umbrella of Death

I’ll never get anxious about another author event again.

Because no matter what might go wrong, I can’t come close to the atrocity committed by children’s author Alison Uttley. She wrote the venerable children’s books about the “Little Grey Rabbit.” (Remember Fuzzypeg the Hedgehog?)

Please to enjoy former children’s book publicist Gwyn Headley’s account of organizing Uttley’s appearance at a Children’s Book Fair in Westminster:

[Uttley] was a sour little old woman, with no small talk, and I was clearly merely a minion. But I was quite good at publicity...At half hourly intervals the PA system hollered out ‘ALISON UTTLEY!! LITTLE GREY RABBIT AUTHOR!! HERE AT 12!!’

Teachers were whipping their charges into a state of frenzy…We’d placed Uttley on a curtained daïs, and on the dot of 12 the curtain rose. A howling crowd of excited children stormed the stage.

As Uttley hadn’t bothered to listen to a word I’d told her, she was completely unprepared for this. Dimly she perceived an overwhelming mob running at her and with British pluck she unhesitatingly grabbed her duck-handled umbrella and waded into the attack, felling infants right and left.

The kiddies paused, briefly regrouped, then broke up and ran off, screaming in terror. Uttley strode among them, lashing out freely.

The Meet The Author session was abandoned, and I was asked to escort Miss Uttley out of the fair.
Miss Uttley's newly published diaries show that this behavior was no aberration! (For an explanation, and also to see the source of the Uttley/Grey Rabbit graphic, go to The Guardian.)

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