David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the sun machine

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Nicholas Royle
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This is a book about David Bowie as a songwriter, singer and thinker. It is also a study of Enid Blyton and her enduring power as a storyteller. Through the incongruous pairing of Bowie and Blyton, Royle confronts a series of critical questions: What is the point of universities? Why do music, art and literature matter? Where does listening (to stories or to music) get us? How are we to negotiate the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis and the ‘end times’? This is a sombre and reflective book based on the author’s forty-plus years of university teaching and research, but it also contains a good deal of comedy and laughter. As the critic Peter Boxall explains in the Afterword, Royle’s book ‘does not sit comfortably in any existing genre or form’. It combines passages about everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic with a series of lectures that include hearing and discussing Bowie songs, exploring the appeal of Blyton’s storytelling (especially the Famous Five books), talking about dreams and second-hand bookshops, revealing Blyton’s previously unrecorded love affair with the author’s grandmother, and reflecting on some previously unpublished photos of Bowie (also reproduced in the book). Alongside Blyton, there’s talk of other writers – from Aristophanes, Shakespeare and Keats to Spike Milligan, Ray Bradbury and Claire-Louise Bennett. Alongside Bowie, there’s discussion of a range of music – from Bach, Beethoven and Chopin to Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Charles Mingus.

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