I remember my mother reading Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories to me when I was very young. She taught me to read for myself quite soon after and fed me a regular diet of The Famous Five, The Adventurous Four and The Secret Seven seasoned with Worzel Gummidge and Just William for variety. As I grew a little older she introduced me to Wind in the Willows – a book that is never far from my affections – and then C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, J. B. Priestly, C. P. Snow and others I’ve forgotten. All from the library, of course because she had no money to buy books. In my middle to late teens, in my obnoxious phase (some would say I am still in it), I turned my nose up at my mother’s tastes and started choosing my own authors: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Arthur Koestler, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Golding, Nikos Kazantzakis, Henry Miller, J. P. Donleavy, Mervyn Peake, Soren Kierkegaard, Norman Mailer, Victor Hugo and others now lost in the dusty recesses of my memory. There was no method to my choosing; I simply followed the trail of biscuit crumbs from one author to the next in the hope that he might say something more interesting than the last. I discussed many of the authors with my mother (not Henry Miller) and, returning the favour she did me when I was young, convinced her to read some of them.
Looking back, I realise that I owe my mother and Noddy an inestimable debt of gratitude for instilling in me the capacity to withdraw temporarily from this vale of tears by giving myself unreservedly to a book; there is nothing quite like it.
All of which makes this revelation from the BBC seem particularly stupid:
Children’s author Enid Blyton was banned from the BBC for nearly 30 years because her work was considered “small beer”, archive documents have revealed.
The best-selling writer unsuccessfully approached the corporation several times to get her material on the radio.
Executives considered the Famous Five and Noddy creator “second-rate” and lacking literary value, according to 18 newly released letters and memos.
She first pitched ideas in 1936 but did not appear on Woman’s Hour until 1963.
A memo about a short story stated: “Not strong enough. It really is odd to think that this woman is a best-seller. It is all such very small beer.”
Another simply said “reject”.
Head of the BBC schools department Jean Sutcliffe said in an internal memo dated 1938: “My impression of her stories is that they might do for Children’s Hour but certainly not for Schools Dept, they haven’t much literary value.
“There is rather a lot of the Pinky-winky-Doodle-doodle Dum-dumm type of name – and lots of pixies – in the original tales.”
She added that they were “competently written”