Page Turner: The boy in the book strikes back

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The Independent Culture

It looked terrible, green and foamy like spat-out mouthwash. It was an absinthe cocktail, and I raised it to my lips to celebrate the launch of Tom Hodgkinson's new book The Idle Parent (Hamish Hamilton £14.99). I well remember the "party like it's 1899" days when Tom used to import the green fairy. The cover image shows a child enthusiastically shaking cocktails for his parents, but Tom is a wise old owl masquerading as a total waster, so the advice contained in the book is sound and inspiring. Tom's with D H Lawrence on the best way to bring up a child – "Leave him alone". "We need to retreat. Let them live. Welcome to the school of inactive parenting. It's a win-win situation," as he puts it in the book.

One rule of parenting might be not to write too many columns and books about your children. I've been saddened by the furore in the press around Jake Myerson, whose life has been documented since his earliest years by his mother, Julie Myerson. Her latest book, The Lost Child, deals with his alleged drug abuse. Four years ago, Jake Myerson worked on these books pages for a few weeks; he was delightful company. I recall we had a conversation about his mother's fiction; at 16, he was a bit too young for it, but he quipped: "I get quite enough of Julie's personality without reading her novels." I said I'd take him to a launch party although "it'll just be a load of alcoholics talking about books". "I can get that at home," he deadpanned.

I can't help thinking about that lively, too-much-written-about boy now. In an interview with The Bookseller, Julie claims she just "found herself" writing about his troubles, while aiming to write another book entirely. Out of her control, see? It's difficult to know what to say about someone who privileges their own creativity over their son's privacy. Once written, did it even need to be published? "People need to know this happens to families like ours," she told The Bookseller – which sounds like a pious rationalisation to me.

Jake hit back at his "very naive and slightly insane" parents in The Independent, angrily repudiating the notion that he approved The Lost Child. Julie, meanwhile, has issued a statement via her agent, saying she "hopes people will refrain from making any judgements until they have read the book". Available at all good bookshops and on Amazon, I'm sure.

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