May. 24th, 2011

teadog1425: (writing)


I watched the BBC4 programme on Enid Blyton at the weekend, which was excellent. Helena Bonham Carter was superb as Blyton - with a chilling, horribly believable portrayal of a deeply-flawed woman, whose emotional development had frozen at the age of about 12 - the age she was when her womanising father left her mother, walking out on their young family. (Interesting article about this here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/6570310/Why-Enid-Blytons-greatest-creation-was-herself.html)

The script (based heavily on her second daughter, Imogen's, account of life with Enid as a mother) did a fantastic job of showing how Blyton was trapped as essentially an immature 12-year-old in a woman's body - the casual spitefulness and petty cruelties, the inability to empathise with anyone else's feelings, the terrible - literally unbearable - rollercoaster of her own uncontrollable emotions - making me-as-viewer pity her whilst finding her deeply unpleasant – were all powerfully portrayed.

More uniquely characteristic to Blyton, however, was her great reliance on the protective powers of escapism and fantasy, which resulted in the almost complete rewriting of any facts that didn’t fit to the way she wanted the world to have been. A counsellor acquaintance of mine from a few years back, had a theory that people who developed Alzheimers and other memory issues, were those who had relied on ‘forgetting’ as a coping mechanism earlier on in their lives – which I don’t think is accurate, but certainly Blyton would be a case for the prosecution on this, as she did indeed go on to develop Alzheimers before her death at the age of 71.

I was never a massive Enid Blyton fan – despite the fact that my mum was extremely anti-Blyton, thinking them “common”!! I found the Far Away Tree deeply creepy, her school story books were pervaded by a nasty odour of authorially-sanctioned peer bullying, and the Famous Five/Secret Seven books seemed both simultaneously unbelievable and unimaginative… However, it is a “formula” that did (and does) seem to work for an incredible number of people, and Blyton is still a best-selling, and multiply-translated, author, which is quite an achievement!

The quote in the subject line comes from Helena B-C, who said that she used it as the key to getting into Blyton's character... Again, deeply chilling!

Joyce Grenfell's hilarious skit "Writer of Children's Books" is well worth seeking out: 'A wickedly funny piece in which a writer of children's books talks in twee terms about how she writes her almost identical books by going into her Hidey-Hole and visiting the Land of Make-Believe is obviously based on Enid Blyton. "Now my husband has his own Hidey-Hole," she says, "where he adds up."' (See here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/accidental-heroes-of-the-20th-century-25--joyce-grenfell-actor-1077057.html)

Similarly, Radio 4's "Incredible Women" series with Rebecca Front had an interview with the spurious children's author, Eleanor Fane-Gore, who also seems to have been a parody of Blyton, including a chilling snippet about sucking the meat off hares' ears, and fictionalising her own daughter (under the same name!) as a rightfully-bullied "wet" character in Fane-Gore's school stories! (See here: http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/radio/incredible_women/episodes/1/1/ and here: http://www.wivenhoebooks.com/747/)

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