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09th January 2024 Ana Bradley (2023, English)

Professor Nicholas Royle publishes David Bowie, Enid Blyton, and the Sun Machine

Exeter alumnus Nicholas Royle (1976, English) published David Bowie, Enid Blyton, and the Sun Machine in November 2023. Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Sussex, Royle is a prolific author of critical works, novels, articles, and short stories. This, his latest book, is the fluent distillation of Professor Royle’s pandemic-fuelled musings on Bowie and Blyton.

The pair don’t initially appear to have much in common, and in an interview with Manchester University Press, Professor Royle writes that the connection was originally coincidental. During the pandemic, Professor Royle read Blyton to his children by day and listened to Bowie by night. The two began to merge and Professor Royle’s personal connection to Blyton – his grandmother, Lola Onslow, once had an affair with her – fuelled his exploration of these connections. Professor Royle lists their commonalities as: ‘bisexuality and queerness, desire and danger, imagination and alternative culture, the world of childhood, theatricality and mimicry, Englishness and class, comedy and storytelling, the demonic, music and the love of reading itself’. The book lovingly reflects upon these themes, particularly on the role of education and the arts.

If the coherence of this eclectic merging doesn’t already intrigue, Timothy Morton entertainingly writes of the book: “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 … Once again, Royle has rung my bell.” It has also been described more soberly as “a grand summing up of a lifetime’s reading and thinking … illuminating”. Professor Royle himself has stressed the dream-like character of literature – its ability to evoke similarities between itself and the world in unexpected, profound, and generative ways, and his latest book does exactly that.

To find out more, come along to New College on 23 January 2024 at 5.30pm. There, Professor Royle will be in conversation with Peter Boxall, Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and a fellow of New College, with whom Professor Royle is currently collaborating on a book, The Novel in Brief. They will discuss David Bowie, Enid Blyton, and the Sun Machine. Attendance is free; simply report to the New College lodge a little before 5.30 to be directed to the lecture theatre.

You can purchase David Bowie, Enid Blyton, and the Sun Machine here.

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