Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Favorite female authors follow-up post


 My favorite author as a child 

Last week, I composed an entry on Favorite female authors which I'm surprised as well as pleased to have seen attract some interesting posts on its Comments section. For the record: Wow and thank you, mikael and alejna, for deciding to go and order some books "blind" on account of my having written favorably about them! Also, in lieu of the interest shown in the works of Enid Blyton (notably by leo86 and alejna), I figured that it might be worthwhile to shine the spotlight some more on this favorite childhood author of mine (and many (non-American) others).

So, for starters, here's pointing people to the BBC Radio 4 page that links to RealPlayer audio clips of excerpts from interviews with the famous female writer. Next, interested parties are directed to a 26 December 2006 piece on Enid Blyton in The Independent which came in the wake of news that just before last Christmas, five works of Enid Blyton were finally translated into Maltese. (On this event itself, Philip Henscher was moved to observe that it constituted: "A small step for Blyton's estate, which is already published in nearly a hundred different languages, but a large one to the children of this particular island.")

Additionally, here's furnishing proof that I'm not the only Malaysian who has blogged -- and in a positive manner -- on the much criticized yet still popular English author. (For those who are not (yet) in the know: "Bolehland", where the blogger in question satirically states that he's from, is the nickname that some Malaysians have bestowed on their home country on account of one of our national government's more well-known national pride instilling-campaign slogans being Malaysia boleh! (trans., "Malaysia can (do it)!"). ;D)

At the same time, as a further follow-up to my admissions with regards to Enid Blyton having been the author of many of the books I read as a child and still turn to whenever I'm feeling really poorly, I feel obliged to pen a few words of caution for people who have managed to reach adulthood without having read a single Enid Blyton book and now are thinking of checking out one or more of them.

To quote from the Philip Henscher piece some more: "Enid Blyton is absolutely irresistible, and children who will read nothing will quite often read what you have of course recognised as the Famous Five and the Secret Seven." However, "[o]ne of the very startling experiences of growing up as a reader is picking up one of her books in adulthood, and trying to read it at all...God knows how Blyton achieves this. To anyone over the age of 13, these books are literally unreadable. I tried to read The Fourth Form at Malory Towers (sic.) a year or two ago; it was honestly about as demanding as Samuel Beckett's Malone Dies. It could hardly have been much less penetrable if I'd been attempting the Maltese translation itself"!!!

Henscher goes on to also assert that "Blyton's attitudes are often frankly antediluvian". Although he is undoubtedly guilty of exaggeration, it must be recognized that Enid Blyton's books were written by a woman who was born in 1897 -- i.e., when Queen Victoria ruled over a (British) "empire on which the sun never set" -- and passed away some years before I, like many others, started reading her books.

Still, lest it be thought that Henscher's one of those who's in the anti-Enid Blyton camp, here's additionally pointing out that among his concluding remarks are that: "You are absolutely wasting your time thinking these books, unreadable as they may seem to you, could be profitably replaced in your child's library by something better written, more amusing, more sympathetic in its moral outlook"; and, ultimately, "[t]he addiction to Blyton will come to an end, sooner or later; the addiction to reading she inculcates will go on forever."

For my part, I figure that I might as well as throw out a few excerpts from an Enid Blyton book to let you judge for yourself whether her books have any value. Granted though that Blyton fan that I am, I'm going ahead and choosing to highlight sections which I particularly like (from Last Term at Malory Towers, the sixth and final book in my favorite Enid Blyton series).

Anyways, here's what Miss Grayling, the headmistress (i.e., female "head teacher" or "principal" to those not familiar with this British English term!) of Malory Towers had to say at a meeting with some new pupils of the fabled girls boarding school:-


I want you all to listen to me for a minute or two. One day you will leave this school and go out into the world as young women. You should take with you eager minds, kind hearts and a will to help. You should take with you a good understanding of many things and a willingness to accept responsibility, and show yourselves as women to be loved and trusted. All these things you will be able to learn at Malory Towers -- if you will.

Then, after a pause, during which "every girl looked at her intently, listening hard..."

I do not count as our successes those who have good scholarships and passed exams, though these are good things to do. I count as our successes those who learn to be good-hearted and kind, sensible and trustable, good, sound women the world can lean on. Our failures are those who do not learn these things in the years they are here...

Some of you will find it easy to learn these things, others will find it hard...But, easy or hard, they must be learnt if you are to be happy after you leave here, and if you are to bring happiness to others.

Now, I don't know about you but I reckon that the above words are ones which would be pretty good ones to live by. And to think that they appeared in a book for children that was first published back in 1951... :)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to check for some Enid Blyton books at the library next time.

I like to read female authors in general, and those who feature a female as the main character. Pearl S. Buck's got some amazing works especially the ones that focus on life in China but her other material is enjoyable as well because of her writing style. For a while I was reading fictional works about pre-Victorian and Victorian era English life, then I gravitated towards Imperial or olden Chinese settings (Lin Yutang's "Red Peony" and "Lady Wu" were excellent), and most recently, Colette's "Claudine at School" which was very good. Ha! I'm all over the place.

GurlonFilm

YTSL said...

Hi "GurlonFilm" --

Hope there are some Enid Blyton books at the library for you to check out! Also, re your general reading preferences: Funny, but they sound a lot like mine... :b

RyeUrn said...

"Additionally, here's furnishing proof that I'm not the only Malaysian who has blogged -- and in a positive manner -- on the much criticized yet still popular English author. "

Thanks for visiting my blog:) Fellow Enid Blyton - lover Malaysian.

YTSL said...

Hi ryeurn --

Thanks in turn for visiting my blog. Also, hope you'll continue your visits and/or send some other visitors over! :)

Mikael said...

My biggest beef with Blyton is that the characters were always eating, and so it was impossible to read without getting hungry. ^^

YTSL said...

Hi mikael --

Tee hee hee! You've got me recalling all those mentions of midnight feasts, lashings of macaroons, lemonade, ginger beer, and the fantasy food that the Magic Faraway Tree people feasted on now...All in all, it seems that even the Hogwarts folk never had it so good! ;b