Thursday, April 28, 2011

Betraying Blyton

I was reading about how people decide to become writers when they read really good writers. Writers who resonate. Names are tossed. Isabel Allende. Wendell Berry (?). Anne Beattie.

Me too. Except that the writer I read is not one we mentioned in circles of more than one. We pretend we never read her and loved her as a kid. It is not fashionable to say you simply LOVED Enid Blyton. But I did. Enid Blyton. Not CS Lewis. Not J.R.R. Tolkien. Not Kenneth Grahame.

The first "long" book I ever read was Hurrah for the Circus. I had picked it out at a secondhand bookstore after I followed Mum shopping. I think I was seven. I may have been six.

Anyway, we got home and I curled up in my bed and started reading. And reading. And reading some more. It was my first non-picture book. And I couldn't put it down. I read, read, read, read, fantasised about running away and joining a circus, practised the "low gentle voice" that Jimmy was famous for with animals. And after I finished reading it, why, I read it all over again.

And again.

And again.

I don't know if you've noticed but I can be kinda obsessive.

And as Hurrah for the Circus was the second book in the series, I managed to get Mum me the first, which was Mr Galliano's Circus. Same thing. Read until the end. Start over. And over.

I have memories of peanut butter and butter sandwiches and Mr Galliano's Circus propped up at the table.

Peanut butter is my petit madeleine.

And that's why I wanted to be a writer.

I used to regale the younger siblings or cousins with stories. And then I turned 12 and it was probably the most productive literary year of my life. I churned out story after story. Utter tripe, of course, but you don't think that when you're 12 and have an audience of one who simply loves your stories and asks you to tell them over and over again. My sister Jackie.

Only now do I appreciate the value of a captive audience who simply loves what you have to say, even when you don't really have to say anything at all.

Skip one year to Form 2 and this was a productive year for poems. Only two survive from that time, mere nursery rhymes, quests a la Jabberwocky, but funny quests. One had a ghost as a villain. The other, an angry purple Plum. One had a brave young man as a hero. The other, a big brave banana.

Mum used to say, where do you come up with all these things?

I used to reply: off the top of my head.

A few years ago, I unearthed the black diary from when I was in Standard Six that contained my stories from the year. And copied them, bad spelling, poor grammar and all into the computer. And I made Jackie a book. A compilation from way back when. Along with the two poems she loved to listen to every night at bedtime.

I said, to my sister Jackie, the one who believed in me all those years ago.

It makes me sad to write this as I haven't really made anything of myself. I stopped writing. Lost that sublime confidence that I had words to write that other people would like to read.

Betrayed Enid Blyton.

The thing about failing is that you can always pick yourself up, turn the corner, start again. Kinda like what this dude was talking about.

Above me, wind does its best
to blow leaves off
the aspen tree a month too soon.
No use wind. All you succeed
in doing is making music, the noise
of failure growing beautiful.

(Bill Holm)

That's all for now folks. See ya in the funny papers.

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