ADam Kay is pleased with the title of his new book, Kay’s AnatomyBut he acknowledges that it’s not a joke that his target audience will laugh at, at least for a while. A guide to the body for children, it addresses everything from poop to mental health, reproduction and whether or not it is safe to eat ghosts (sadly for parents around the world, Kay informs her young readers that: “Yes, they are safe. Chew! ”). “It’s a pretty unusual title because it’s a pun that not a single person of the right age to read the book will get,” says Kay. his Anatomy It is talkative, educational, and charmingly illustrated by Henry Paker. I’m a particular admirer of his delightful rendition of the hippocampus, ignoring Kay’s wise words that it “has nothing to do with hippos, I’m afraid, or camping for that matter.” The book is silly when necessary, but it is also packed with information as it moves through every organ in the body, from skin to brain, as well as assuming reproduction, death, and appropriately for this moment, germs.
“I wanted it to be a fun textbook, to be a real resource rather than something too flimsy,” says Kay. “I wanted to trick kids into thinking they are reading something that is just funny, silly and disgusting and hopefully get them interested enough to learn things too. And not just the things they need to pass their exams, but the things that are difficult to talk about, not talked about enough, like body image. I’m talking about smoking and alcohol and things that they or their friends might be living with: diabetes, epilepsy, ADHD, or even panic disorders or obsessions. That’s the idea behind it. “
It’s a similar approach to the one he took with his now-perennial bestseller. This is going to hurt, an intense, funny and heartbreaking diary from his time as a junior physician that has sold over 2.5 million copies. “In a way, all my books have been little confidence tricks,” he says. “This goes hurt It pretends it’s a funny book, but it actually has a highlight and isn’t particularly funny at all. “
I tell him that it has been useful to show Kay’s Anatomy to my 10-year-old daughter, who after demanding to know where babies come from was outraged at my answer and said she wishes she had never asked. “It’s such a difficult subject,” he assures me. “It’s a lot easier for me because I can sit down and, over the course of weeks, connect with experts in sex ed and explain it in the right way.”
I had been thinking about writing the guide for some time. His speech to the editor was that “nothing should be taboo. It’s about your body and how it works, and how it sometimes doesn’t work.
“As my nieces and nephews grow up, they are just a totally blank slate. Their worries and prejudices, that’s what the rest of the world does to them. I wanted it to be a book that was totally frank, open and honest, so that they could understand what it means to have, say, autism, if their friends have it, ”says Kay. “I’m gay, and to them we are Uncle Adam and Uncle James, and it’s the most normal thing in the world. The normal thing is that there are gay people around and that’s fine. That’s a bad analogy, but if you talk to them about the shape of the body, and you talk to them about sex, and you talk to them about alcohol, just in a practical way from the start, it can become something of what it is not spoken. Everything goes wrong when people get close. “
Kay wrote much of the guide during the confinement, working from home with her husband. “I like to pretend that I am going to work; I put on some clothes, even shoes, and that makes me feel like it’s a job, ”he says. “I write 1000 words a day; it’s an achievable goal and I can always do it.”
Switching from writing for adults to writing for children was not difficult. “I really enjoyed it, which probably means I’m quite childish at heart. It was quite natural, just turning into the silliest and the most repulsive, ”he says. “I try to make myself laugh. The only jokes that stuck were the ones that really tickled me as an adult. Theoretically it’s for kids ages seven to 12, but it’s actually for adults as well, because how can you expect you to remember all that GCSE biology stuff? “
Kay stopped being a physician in 2010, after six years of training and six years in the wards, later as a senior registrar in OB / GYN. As revealed in This is going to hurt, the decision was made after the death of a baby during a difficult delivery and the near death of its mother. “That was the last entry I wrote in the journal, and the reason there is no more laughter in this book,” Kay wrote.
He became a comedian and screenwriter, posted his debut in 2017, and followed it up with a glimpse of what it’s like to work in medicine during the holiday season. It was the night shift before Christmas. As the coronavirus pandemic raged through the spring, Kay saw the Facebook feeds of her friends from medical school filled with stories of fear and a lack of personal protective equipment. Started blocking when joining Dear NHS, a love letter to the National Health Service with more than 100 collaborators, including Paul McCartney and Emma Thompson. All proceeds went to NHS Charities Together and the Lullaby Trust, which supports parents of grieving infants and toddlers. It has raised £ 270,000 and is still increasing.
“I think the handling of the pandemic by the NHS has been amazing. The million and a half people who work to the bone, bonding harder than ever, creating intensive care units, working double, triple shifts and, if they are lucky enough to put on PPE, end up with pressure sores on their faces, they move away from their family, ”says Kay. “I am very proud that this exists in our country. I cannot rate its handling that high. I think the NHS did well In spite of the government rather than the government. The tragedy of the residences. I mean, that’s totally heartbreaking and it was totally avoidable. “
Kay is currently working on the scripts for the BBC2 adaptation of This goes hurtstarring Ben Whishaw, which begins filming, pandemic permitting, in January. He managed to fit in about a dozen shows in the West End before the second closing, and he has a few planned for Christmas, if he can.
Despite strong sales of This is going to hurt and It was the night shift …, Kay doesn’t think she’ll delve into her old diaries again, even though there’s still a lot of material there. “I have tons and tons and tons of newspapers, but I’ve used a lot of my best stuff. I don’t want to keep going further and further down the barrel until I’m in book nine and writing about an uneventful cesarean in 2008. “Now, think, the diaries represent the difficult side of all those years in medicine.” In retrospect, obviously it was my way of dealing with the situation. “
• Kay’s Anatomy: A Complete (and Fully Disgusting) Guide to the Human Body by Adam Kay, illustrated by Henry Paker, is published by Puffin (£ 14.99). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply.
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