- Format: Paperback
- ISBN: 978-1-5261-7363-8
- Pages: 256
- Price: £15.99
- Published Date: November 2023
In this one-of-a-kind book, novelist and academic Nicholas Royle brings together two remarkably different creative figures: Enid Blyton and David Bowie. His exploration of their lives and work delves deeply into questions about the value of art, music and literature, as well as the role of universities in society.
Blending elements of memoir and cultural commentary, Royle creates a tender and often hilarious portrait of family life during the pandemic, weaving it together with musings on dreams, second-hand bookshops and unpublished photos of Bowie taken by Stephen Finer. He also shares previously unrecorded details about Blyton's personal life, notably her love affair with Royle's grandmother.
David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the sun machine offers a singular perspective on the cultural significance of two iconic figures. In doing so, it makes a compelling case for the power of storytelling and music to shape our lives.
'The novelist and critic Nicholas Royle has a new book out, which is as good and as strange as its title suggests, David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun Machine, in which he describes some of the ways literature functions as a delivery system for startling encounters - for the purposes of the meeting of other minds, and of being gathered into a common social life à la Bowie in his early song 'Memory of a Free Festival.'
Ian Sansom, TLS
'A dazzling act of literary-critical rebellion, a portrait of pandemic family life and an intimate exploration of personal history. This book illuminates the recent cultural past, casting new light on the lives of David Bowie and Enid Blyton, and infuses the future with the brightness of its invention and wit.'
Naomi Booth, author of Exit Management
'This is IT: the book you couldn't possibly have been waiting for. Enid Blyton and a telepathic dog called Timmy take a bow for Bowie, who nods at COVID in a disturbing Toyland called Earth. A magical series of ghostly lectures from beyond the graves of academe, all served with lashings of lingering veer. Once again, Royle has rung my bell.'
Timothy Morton, author of The Stuff of Life
'A fascinating mix of the autobiographical and the scholarly, woven deftly around two of the major cultural figures of recent times: Enid Blyton and David Bowie. Nicholas Royle mixes family and cultural histories in typically insightful and learned fashion.'
Andrew Maunder, author of Enid Blyton: A Literary Life
'David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the sun machine is about how literature and music burrows tunnels through our lives, connecting worlds of imagination and memory, connecting us to each other, creating new spaces for light to enter. Royle's heartfelt and mischievous text assembles narratives, images, sounds, lyrics, children's books and real and imagined memories into a luminous construction. Fragile and abundant, indulgent and generous, it is about how the "peculiar goings-on" in a Famous Five book or a stray line from a David Bowie song can change the way you see the world.'
Leah Kardos, author of Blackstar Theory: The Last Works of David Bowie
'This is a fascinating book. Harassed academics will immediately relate to it, and so will all Enid Blyton and David Bowie fans, but it is much more than a book about any of those topics. It is an evocation of a time and a place, South London in the mid-twentieth century, the world that produced two such disparate figures as Blyton and Bowie, but also the author himself. I read it with great pleasure and interest.'
Gabriel Josipovici, author of Forgetting
'Hugely pleasurable. An adventure in life-writing and a highly original celebration of the life-forces of art and song.'
Alison Light, author of A Radical Romance
'The book's appeal and strength is the very unusual melding of Royle's own story, Enid Blyton, Beckenham, David Bowie (including "Memory of a Free Festival"), which all coalesce by pivoting time and geography.'
Stephen Finer, painter
'David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the sun machine is written with a poet's playful ear and a sometimes fierce polemical rage. Nicholas Royle's book has moments that will make you gasp with wonder. Turns of thought, passion and story feel as if they come from a master film director or a virtuoso storyteller. Linking Blyton with Bowie in ways we never dreamt imaginable, Royle illumines the solar wonder of both figures - and reminds us of the glories that both inhabit and surround us all.'
Denis Flannery, editor of The Cambridge Companion to David Bowie
'Words, sounds and silences are explored closely as Nicholas Royle explains the intertextuality between two writers we had never thought were linked so intimately.'
Nick Smart, editor of David Bowie: Glamour magazine
'Extraordinary. It's brilliant. I finished it late last night. I couldn't, as they say, put it down.'
Nicholas Royle, author of London Gothic
Part I: Living in the M times
Part II: A sense of the ending
Memory of a free festival (first lecture)
The undermind (second lecture)
Telepathy (third lecture)
The time machine (fourth lecture)
The Croydon Bookshop (fifth lecture)
What a big memory you have, Grandmother! (sixth lecture)
But the clouds (seventh lecture)
Fairy (eighth lecture)
Part III: Typewriter
Part IV: Strangers meet we when
'What is a sun machine?' Afterword by Peter Boxall
Nicholas Royle is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Sussex. He is the author of many books, including Hélène Cixous: Dreamer, Realist, Analyst, Writing (2020), An English Guide to Birdwatching: A Novel (2017), Veering: A Theory of Literature (2011) and The Uncanny (2003).