THE GUILLOTINE: No 22: ENID BLYTON
Twentieth-Century Classics That Won't Last
Sunday 06 June 1999
Or, to take a cultural example, when Shirley Temple made the films that landed Graham Greene in so costly a legal wrangle that it bankrupted the magazine Night and Day (he had made a libellous insinuation about her sexual appeal to middle-aged male spectators), she was unquestionably precocious for her age, both her own and the age - the period - in which she lived. Nowadays, she would probably be regarded as something of a late developer (and that goes for the matter of her sexuality).
Even curiouser, the same process has transformed literature. Fiction written for adults has inexorably rejuvenated itself (the rhetorical orotundity of a Henry James would be inconceivable in a contemporary novel).
Children's fiction, on the other hand, even that intended for the tiniest of tots, now treats as a given, as an irreversible fait accompli of our radically altered world, social attitudes and linguistic manners which, a half-century ago, if they had been sanctioned at all, would have remained the exclusive preserve of adolescents.
Which is the first reason why Enid Blyton is destined for posterity's chop. It would doubtless surprise us to learn just how many children continue to enjoy the adventures of Noddy and Big Ears, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Malory Towers, etc. Even so, she wrote for a species of child that barely exists any longer and will have become utterly extinct well before the end of the next century.
And the second reason? The poet Brian Patten, a fan, was nevertheless forced to concur that Blyton's characters were "wooden", her villains "stereotyped", her prose "repetitive and clumsy and bigoted". The problem isn't at all one of political correctness (the impact of which will almost certainly be neutralised as the years, the decades and the centuries elapse). No - as witness the pantheon of Carroll, Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and company - children's fiction survives for precisely the same reason as adult fiction: because it is well written. QED.
Grace Dent on TVtv
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners