Enid Blyton: England's Ayn Rand
"Anne saw some cows pulling at the grass in a meadow as they passed. 'It must be awful to be a cow and eat nothing but tasteless grass,' she called to George. 'Think what a cow misses - never tastes an egg and lettuce sandwich, never eats a chocolate eclair, never has a boiled egg - and can't even drink a glass of ginger-beer! Poor cows!'" (from "Five Get Into Trouble," 1949)

So, according to "The Guardian," the most beloved writer in all of England is somebody named Enid Blyton -- which is strange, because she is a person that no one in America has ever heard of.

You go can go into any bookstore in America and find literally no books by Enid Blyton. You can ask the person behind the counter about her, and she will say:

"How weird. British people come in all the time asking about Enid Blyton, and I think it is some sort of code. They also ask about Weetabix, and you can see the quiver in their thin, bloodless lips when I tell them that are speaking nonsense. Is this how the British gentry determine whether or not you are a drug dealer?"

The rest of the writers on the "beloved" list break down as you would expect. There are the timeless classics and the smug upstarts. But then there is that peculiar name at the top. Who is this person, and why does she mist the eyes of Thompsons, Carpenters, Smiths, and Johnsons everywhere?

The list:

1. Enid Blyton
2. Roald Dahl
3. J.K. Rowling
4. Jane Austen
5. William Shakespeare
6. Charles Dickens
7. J.R.R. Tolkien
8. Agatha Christie
9. Stephen King
10. Beatrix Potter

After some cursory research, I see that if "Enid Blyton" is meant to be a joke, then it is a deep joke, and many people are in on it, including the Queen. If the Queen is in on the joke, then the joke becomes prima facie real in the English system, as per the Magna Carta. Many traditions and customs in England are jokes that have been "Queened," including the inch, figgy pudding, Guy Fawkes, and the straw boater.

However, I think this writer may be real. The internet informs me that she is as uniquely beloved in England as Ayn Rand is in America.

You know Ayn Rand: that insane chain-smoking fiend who wore a cape with a dollar sign on it and wrote books about the joy of tall buildings, steel, and greed. Ayn Rand always shows up at the top of the "beloved writer" list in America, and we always shrug and hope that Fitzgerald, Melville, and Roth make the top ten. I can't really hold it against those jolly limey rascals that they have promoted a talent-free nobody to the top of their heap, because we do it all the time. But these two particular icons of the perverse -- Rand and Blyton -- are not just any talent-free nobodies. They are talent-free nobodies who typify the secret prejudices, fetishes, and evils inherent in the government and culture of their homelands. They are worth knowing about.

The following docudrama is not intended for children:

I could not watch any more of this, but I believe that this is how the United Kingdom -- an island nation -- deals with its overcrowding problem. Superfluous children are sent to this demented old woman who reads them one last tale reifying the British class system and then feeds them one last delicious meal filled with poison and dumps them in the Thames. This is why she is so beloved. She does the job that no one else wants to do, with a typical British stiff upper clit.

But who was this person? She may have been a grown-up woman, but "she was a child, she thought as a child and she wrote as a child," according to Michael Woods, a British psychologist. I think the same charge could be levied against all of the other female writers on the British "beloved" list. At least in America we fetishize sexuality and avarice. Is it a step up? Who can say?

From a brief biography at www.kirjasto.sci.fi:

"Enid (Mary) Blyton (1897-1968)

British writer who published over 600 children's or juvenile books during her 40-year career. Blyton's most famous series was "The Famous Five." Its central characters were Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and the dog Timmy. Her works celebrated good food, spirit of comradeship, and honesty. By the 1980s, Blyton's books had sold some 60 million copies and had been translated into nearly seventy languages."

Blyton intended to be a teacher, but got into writing because she married a publisher named Hugh Pollock, who published two of her books a year until she divorced him and turned him into a recurring caricature in her books named P.C. Goon. According to some sources, she was capable of writing over 10,000 words a day of stilted, child-friendly prose. She wrote terrifying books for children for forty years and then died in a nursing home, beset by Alzheimer's disease.

More interesting tidbits from an "Independent" article about the dame's recent apotheosis:

"Good writing always stands the test of time and trends but, in the eyes of many critics, Blyton's continued success is an enigma because her work is considered to be exceptionally poor. Hollow plots, repetitive storylines, two-dimensional characters, limited vocabulary and bland, unliterary penmanship are all evident throughout her 700-plus books."

One of her most "famous" creations was a character named Noddy, who was some kind of wooden puppet. Noddy lived in a place called Toyland, which was wonderful, except that it had black people, who were called Golliwoggs.

These Golliwoggs caused all of the problems in Toyland (like stealing Noddy's car), until Noddy set things right. I guess he burned them to death or put them in prison. One of her books from 1954 is called "Noddy and the Magic Rubber." That's the one I want Father Christmas to bring me.

Blyton wrote in series form, and here are some of her most compelling contributions to English letters (from www.enidblyton.net):


"The Famous Five are a group of children who have the sort of adventures most kids dream about, in a world where ginger beer flows and ham rolls are a staple diet. Julian, Dick and Anne get together with their cousin George in the first adventure, Five On A Treasure Island."


"The Adventure Series features Jack, Philip, Dinah, and Lucy-Ann, a group of children who, together with their pet Kiki the parrot, get snarled up in the most amazing adventures you can imagine. They seem to be an adventure magnet, because they always seem to land right in the middle of it all despite their best efforts to have "a quiet holiday."


"The Barney Mysteries are all about Roger and Diana Lynton and their cousin Snubby. Snubby's real name is Peter, but his snub nose earns him the affectionate nickname. He has a jet black spaniel named Loony, who lives up to his name by rushing around and getting under everyone's feet, as well as stealing things. Each title begins with an 'R.'"


"The Secret Seven are a secret society who hold regular meetings and organize things to do, whether it's helping the community in some way, solving mysteries that turn up, or just having fun playing Red Indians in the woods."


"Malory Towers has six forms, from the first to the sixth, and four house towersâ€"North, South, East and West. There are about forty girls in each form, divided among the four houses. Darrell and Co are in North Tower, where most of the action takes place, and where the girls try not to run foul of strict housemistress Miss Potts, or the equally strict Matron. They have a pet eunuch named Marbles who enjoys vigorous humiliation and is always ready to give a good licking to a bit of dry toast."

I made that last part up.

There are also sets called "The Naughtiest Girl," and the "Five Find-Outers," but I don't think they have been rewritten to cope with modern markets yet. Enid Blyton never diluted her product with original writing, a point, or humanity, and so now that she is dead, all her work can be salvaged and repackaged to be reloved by new generations of bright-eyed scamps.

She is tops in the UK this year, and we are all comfortable with that.



Posted by miracle on Thu, 21 Aug 2008 05:16:37 -0400 -- permanent link

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