Been a bit desperate for things to read to the kid with the libraries still closed. After a special offer on a volume of 3 resorted to one of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books about five children who have adventures in the school holidays. Five Go Off To Camp (1948).
Surprisingly he really like it. He laughed hysterically at the jokes, was enthralled by the mild peril, and demanded another one next.
Enid Blyton has a pretty bad reputation for regressive attitudes, but to a degree you're going to find that in any old book. The worst aspects here are the sexism and the surprising meanness of some of the Five's dialogue. It's taken for granted that Ann does all the cooking and washing up, with George forced to assist under protest. When they encounter another kid who they've never met, but have heard bad things about from a friend, they immediately start mocking him as soon as he sits down with them.
As a kid I devoured them all, but Enid Blyton seems one of those writers who appeals only to children not really adults. The prose and descriptions are basic, and you don't have the sharp dialogue and grotesque characterisation of Roald Dahl.
On the plus side Enid Blyton does seem to have done a great job in some ways. The adventures and dangers are pitched at the right level: the kid was on tenterhooks over whether Timmy the dog would fall down a ventilation shaft he did but landed on a soft pile of soot. George is climbing a broken-down ladder in the same shaft but there's no hint that she might fall to her death.
Also surprisingly useful if you're reading aloud at bedtime: the chapters are almost exactly uniform length.
The books are also fantastic escapism: especially in a grim pandemic lockdown it's good to read about wandering freely in the countryside. I think what's sometimes missed is that the books aren't retellings of a glorious past. Enid Blyton grew up in flat over a shop in the suburbs, with separated parents whose ashamed mother made her hold to the lie that her father would be back imminently. The books were written from 1942 to 1962. Food rationing didn't end till 1954: those scrumptious cream teas and slap-up dinners and fried breakfasts were written for a public who weren't getting anything like that in real life. Blyton's idyllic English countryside is as much of a fantasy as Narnia or Middle Earth.
Overall, will keep going till the libraries open.
What I'm Reading 2
North by Scott Jurek. Book about ultrarunner Scott Jurek's attempt to set a Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail. Has alternating chapters with his wife Jenny who was supporting him. Was interesting to read about the challenges of support which is also a burden: having to constantly drive ahead to the next resupply point, have everything ready, do all the shopping and cooking and laundry on the road.
Jurek is an appealing character: half driven competitor, half hippy mystic. In the early parts of the book he spends time enjoying the trail, going swimming, chatting with fans, to the extent that it threatens his time. I'd read about him before in "Born To Run" from a third-party perspective so good to read about him more directly.
The accounts of the run are good as well, capturing what it's like to do such a long run (2000 miles) competitively. Worth a read if you're interested in ultrarunning.
What I'm Reading 3
Read a comic book: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Couldn't really get into it. Decent artwork with some striking images but the plot is just a small section of a much larger arc and not a lot of consquence really happened.
|< Going back to work | To The Emperor! >|