Sunday, 25 July 2010

Infamous Five: it's all very strange

Not for the first time, publishers are tinkering with Enid Blyton's texts, to bring them this time into the 21st century.

Here is the link to the Guardian's coverage and Zoe Williams' comment:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/23/enid-blyton-famous-five-makeover

My question is: why bother?

There are so many better writers for children who have been at work in the last sixty years that to faff about changing "fellow" to "old man" and "it's all very peculiar" to "it's all very strange" seems like a perverse rearranging of the literary deck chairs on a recession- hit publishing Titanic heading towards a very big iceberg with "e-books" written on it.

As a child I read everything by Enid Blyton that I could get hold of; in fact I probably learned to read IN ORDER to read her. (After the age of seven I had the added incentive that my appendix had been taken out by her husband and he had given me her autograph).

Ah, that autograph! (see above). Probably one of the first, along with Captain W.E.Johns) examples in publishing of brand recognition. And she is still one of the top ten children's writers being borrowed from libraries - at least partly on the strength of it.

But what did she mean to me once I had left childhood behind? I felt no guilty affection as I did for J.R.R.Tolkien or happy nostalgia as I did for Gwyneth Rae (author of my favourite Mary Plain books about the little bear from Bern). Nothing but boredom and embarrassment.

I don't want to ban her and of course it's wonderful that lots of children (including me) have in the past been turned on to reading by her books. But I think it's time quietly to let Enid Blyton die a natural death. No amount of tinkering will make her read like a writer writing today and she just isn't that good.

Let them read Holes, I say, and the wealth of other excellent writers that awaits them. As for Enid, it's time the Famous Five Went on a Very Long Holiday.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Break in service

Aaargh! Sorry for the gap in blogposts. My computer, a MacBook Air, died suddenly aged 2 years and 11 months. Have bought a new one and a 3-year warranty!

So I'll be back in business soon.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Football on and off the page

Well, I had been waiting for the latest Terry Pratchett Discworld novel to become a paperback, with some trepidation. It's about football, you see, which doesn't interest me at all. But I've read all the other Discworlds and we were at the airport about to fly to Italy for two weeks' holiday and there it was in WHSmith, Heathrow Terminal Five.

And my holiday reading had needed to include three books to be read for the Booktrust Teenage Book Prize, so a bit of distraction was deserved.

Then there was the World Cup. We were on holiday with a daughter who was quite interested and her partner, who was very, there was  Satellite TV at our apartment and it rained quite a bit the first week. So real life football was had.

I remembered that what occurs in my novels is not necessarily what they are about so started Unseen Academicals. It's not really vintage Discworld, not up there with Reaper Man, Guards, Guards or Witches Abroad. Not even as good as Going Postal, which had a very successful TV version last month.

But it was very acceptable and the football wasn't a problem. I suppose as usual it's partly about tolerance and doing the right thing and also about teaching baddies a lesson - though I didn't like how that was done this time. And there are some good jokes.