YotG along with other, off topic things.

Dorian E. Gray israfel at eircom.net
Sat Sep 9 17:25:41 EDT 2000

lizzie said...
> Hi.  I just have a quick question for all of you from the UK--who is Enid
> Blyton?

Well, I'm not from the UK, but Ireland is close enough.  And someone has
probably already answered this, but I'm going to answer anyway. :-)

Enid Blyton was a children's writer, active from about 1920 to 1950 or 1960.
She wrote a bunch of different series:  two different 6-book school series
(Malory Towers and St. Clare's), several kid-detective series (Famous Five,
Secret Seven, Five Find-Outers) and an assortment of other stuff that I
can't recall off-hand; she was incredibly prolific.  her books were, and
are, *very* popular with children.  Personally, I loved them as a child, but
cannot read them now (except the school stories, but that's because I'm a
school story addict and will read any school story, no matter how badly
written).  The plots hardly change from one book to the next, the characters
are cardboard (and often get carried from one book to another, with only a
name change), the stories overall are terribly simplistic, with strong
dividing lines between goodies and baddies (which is probably part of the
reason why they appeal to children).  They're also, in some cases, rather
racist and sexist, but I'm not sure that that can be counted as a flaw,
since they're a reasonably accurate reflection of the society to which Ms.
Blyton belonged.

> I heard something about Kate Winslet saying that she was still
> the best,

This does not give me a high opinion of Ms. Winslet.  Unless, of course,
she's a fellow school-story addict. :-)  Did she say which books, in
particular, she was fond of?

> When the fourth Harry Potter came out, somebody in Newsweek said that the
> test of a classic children's book is, would you still love it as an adult?

Hm.  Interesting criterion.  I'm not sure that I agree, though.  The point
of a children's book is not that it appeal to an adult, but that it appeal
to children.  Better, I think, might be to ask if a book appeals to more
than one generation of children.  E.g. Frances Hodgson Burnett; she was
writing around the turn of the century, but her books are still loved by
children today.

> One of
> the ones he said counted as a classic was A Wrinkle in Time, but by those
> standards I have to disagree.  When I first read it, I loved it, but when
> I read it (and a Swiftly Tilting Planet) a year or so ago, I found that
> the portrayals of good and evil were too absolute and too
> traditional, and I found myself getting annoyed.

I'm glad to find I'm not the only one!  Though I've never read any of the
sequels to "A Wrinkle in Time"...I still plan to track them all (there are
about 6, aren't there?) and read them.  For curiosity's sake, if nothing

But I do, like you, find AWiT too rigid and too...almost Christian-centric,
now.  Which is, you might think, odd - I'm not a Christian, but I still
enjoy the Narnia books.  I think the difference is that in the Narnia books,
although they're Christian allegory, they're not rigid.  There's room (in
parts, a *lot* of room) for stray pagan bits, around the edges as it were.
And the presentation of good and evil is done in a reasonably universal
manner - it's possible to see truths in those books that may not necessarily
be exactly the truths that the author intended, but are still true (am I
making any sense at all, here?).  But Madeleine L'Engle doesn't seem to
leave much space round the edges for the reader to stretch in.  She allows
you the truth she is presenting (not all of which I disagree with, btw), but
no more.  I think, as you almost said, the problem is that there is no room
for growth.  For me, it's important to be able to look at something and say
"That's true".  I said that when I read Pratchett's "Hogfather", for
instance - and who would think truth might be found in a funny book?  This
is not to say that everyone should shout "That's True" about "Hogfather".
*I* found something that I think is true in it.  What I think is true may
not be what you think is true.  And there is a difference between truth and
Truth...maybe that's the difference between C. S. Lewis and Madeleine
L'Engle.  He's telling true stories; she's telling True stories.

Now I'm *sure* I'm not making sense, so I'll stop. :-)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at eircom.net

"Some there be that shadows kiss
Such have but a shadow's bliss" -W. Shakespeare

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