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To Reveal Its Shocking Nature

Author Interview
Colin McNairn Author Interview

Signs of the Times reexamines classic nursery rhymes through a contemporary and humorous lens. What inspired you to write this book?

My mother was an English teacher and a great fan of humorous poetry. She introduced me to the light verse of Ogden Nash and the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear, kindling my enthusiasm for their writing styles. I have also been fascinated by wordplay, of one kind or another, and have written about it in earlier books. The light verse style offers considerable wordplay possibilities. It struck me that classic nursery rhymes would lend themselves to reinterpretation in this style and that they could do with some updating as it were.

What is the most memorable nursery rhyme from your childhood and how does that speak to you today?

One of the most memorable, if not the most memorable, nursery rhyme from my childhood is “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It speaks to me today because I now appreciate that a lamb represents innocence and purity and that the pure whiteness of the typical lamb’s coat reinforces the notion of purity. I now believe that this nursery rhyme emphasizes the faithfulness that a pet, endowed with the characteristics of innocence and purity, is capable of showing to a human companion. In the nursery rhymes, that faithfulness is reciprocated by Mary, to her enduring credit.

What nursery rhyme shocked you the most when reexamining it?

For me, the nursery rhyme “Goosey, Goosey, Gander” didn’t take much reexamination to reveal its shocking nature. It portrays someone throwing an old, presumably defenseless, old man down a set of stairs for the simple crime of refusing to say his prayers. For me, the shocking nature of the narrative wasn’t particularly dampened when I learned that what was being described here was likely the fate of a priest, hidden away in a “priest-hole” in a Catholic home, being rousted and punished for refusing to swear allegiance to the Protestant Queen. This would have been a not untypical occurrence in England during the Papist purge of the sixteenth century.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book will be another collection of light verse for adults. It’s to be titled What If Jack Wasn’t So Nimble: Mother Goose Characters Reimagined. I’m currently looking for a publisher. One of the poems from this collection, entitled “Time’s No Fun When You’re Having Flies” has been published in the latest quarterly issue (Sept., 2021) of the British Webzine Lighten Up Online (see https://lightenup-online.co.uk/index.php/isse-55-september-2021/2174-colin-mcnairn-time-s-no-fun-when-you-re-having-flies).

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

Signs of the Times is good clean—or not so clean—fun in two ways. It’s a joy to be reintroduced to so many dearly loved and justly renowned nursery rhymes, long after their sparkle and pungency may have faded from adult memory. It’s also fun to see what an informed and somewhat sardonic modern sensibility makes of them anew in the context of these times we are all now living through.

—Bruce Bennett, Emeritus Professor of English, Wells College

Colin McNairn is clearly having fun as he rewrites nursery rhymes to comment on the wider world. With jabs and plentiful jokes (“hickory, dickory, daiquiri”), he happily draws readers into his imaginative wordsmithery.

—Warren Clements, Author, The Nestlings Press Book of Fairy Tales in Verse

If Mother Goose were writing her nursery rhymes to-day, she would no doubt
burnish her MeToo credentials by condemning Georgie Porgie for kissing the girls and making them cry,
have Billy Boy, a.k.a. Charming Billy, look for a wife online rather than by pursuing a ground game;
warn us against catching a tiger by the toe, given the dangers of nail fungus; and
recognize a twinkle, twinkle in the night sky as more likely to evidence a drone rather than a star.
These are among the revisionist scenarios portrayed in the 70 plus mature verses in this collection, all of which have been inspired, to some extent, by traditional nursery rhymes. The subject matter of the verses ranges widely and includes, politics, language, the law, dating and mating, social behavior, food and drink, health, sports, commerce, technology, travel, and the natural environment.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

When reading Sign of the Times: Through Reimagined Nursery Rhymes you bring out your inner child, enjoy the text in the book and be grateful for literature in a different structure. Colin McNairn wrote an interesting book. This is the kind of book you read when in a dull mood as the verses will cheer you up. Signs of the Times: Through Reimagined Nursery Rhymes is an easy book to follow and readers will enjoy every page.

I really enjoyed the unique contemporary twist given to these classic nursery rhymes. While I believe the content of the book is geared more towards adults, I think that it will really appeal to anyone that is mature. The colorful literature covers a variety of social issues in poignant yet humorous ways. Some of my favorite topics in the book touched on politics, running homes, climate and sexual revolution.

Reading this book makes you appreciate classic literature once again, but we reexamine these stories with a modern lens that shows just how far we’ve come, or at least changed, since they were written and last fully appreciated. Author Colin McNairn covers serious issues in an amusing way that provides context to issues many see as abstract. Which is funny to me considering these nursery rhymes were abstract to me as a child, I never really sat and thought about the words and the story behind it. Author Colin McNairn has obviously put much more thought into these stories than I ever have and in so doing has given me a different kind of appreciation for the kinds of stories we tell children and what the underlying messages are in the stories we tell.

Signs of the Times: Through Reimagined Nursery Rhymes can be enjoyed in one of two ways; as light and fun reading that will certainly make you chuckle, or as a deeper examination of classic literature. In either case, it will certainly be enjoyable.

Pages: 102 | ISBN: 1954353693

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