Friday, May 30, 2008

I want to be a thunder storm novelist

See, now this is what happens when that humid, overcast, really heavy late May / early June weather comes to play.

I hate JK Rowling. Or I don't, I wish I did. As a reader rather than a watcher I was sold by the excellent marketing that placed the Harry Potter series smack bang in the centre of every summer holiday psyche. It means that days with that imminent thunder storm tingle instantly spark the desire to read (or write) an easily digestible, feel-good ending novel.

So well done to the publisher or agent or whoever it was that picked up on how simply marvellous it was that Harry, Ron and Hermione were engaged in the annual ritual of preparing to return for another year in school and delivered it in timely fashion to their readership. It means we all have something to do once Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy are done spending their summer vacation rambling through mystical caves conveniently located beyond floral meadows and glossy woodlands.

Of course I realise that these are children's stories, which should never be allowed to detract from how clever both novelists are. In both cases characters are caught up in plotlines that require them to be courageous and 'grown up', but still they remain children and maybe that's why many adults continue to read Blyton and Rowling. There is a nostalgia relishing the chase and adventure as we run, carefree, through hidden corridors of imaginary boarding schools and abandoned manor houses. We are immediately thrown back in time and place, becoming the children we were, lying on beds or carpets, clutching the humid-damped paperback, the darkening skies hanging outside our windows, at the three week fulcrum of our own summer holidays.

Children's novels aren't to everyone's tastes and it's actually a very long time since I read any Enid Blyton. In fact, the last time I flicked through 'The Folk of the Faraway Tree' it struck me as snobbish, discriminatory and not a lot like the place I wished was real when I was ten years old. This is to be expected, considering it was first published in 1946, but my dismay on seeing a Disney Channel trailer for some Famous Five programme or other suggests that I perceive Enid Blyton's creations to be much more precious than JK Rowling's as I take no issue with the Harry Potter movies, or perhaps again this is simply due to the passage of time.

Now, if the Enid Blyton Wikipedia page is correct, she averaged 20 books a year, so success based on number of publications alone leaves Rowling lagging way behind. That said, individually, Blyton's books wouldn't prop open the door of an empty post-war larder, whereas even 'The Philosopher's Stone' is voluminous enough to stave off the odd curse or two. Having said that, Blyton has delivered several sets of characters aside from the Famous Five - something Rowling hasn't yet achieved.

This isn't intended as a comparison review, or even a review. It is merely to demonstrate that there is a definite magic to these fine literary works which creates a certain kind of reading experience and goes beyond the stretches of even the most elaborate marketing. Having considered the stories that prompt this sensation, or are called to mind when the weather turns, the formula is apparent and yet others have tried and failed to imbibe their novels with that incredible power that sucks us into another reality. It is to do with the sensation of reading the book, not the story itself and yet it must come from the story to begin with.

I don't know what it is, but I want to, not so I can be a children's author. Dear me, no. That would be a terrible bind. Nor is it to emulate the publishing successes of those mentioned, as that can mostly be accredited to extensive marketing. No, I want to know so that at the very least if I am alone in charting this experience then others will understand exactly what I mean when they read my stories. That's why I want to be a thunder storm novelist.

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