Friday, July 15, 2011

How the Uncle books anticipated the Murdoch press

It is always good to discover another fan of Uncle. The other day Cristina Odone wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
If the worst came to the worst, and her teachers suddenly joined the three-quarters of a million strikers on Thursday, I can entertain my daughter with her favourite “Uncle” books. Or rather, with the early volumes from that quirky Sixties series. The three later books are only available second hand, and are going for more than £1,000. 
One reason, according to devotees (and J P Martin’s works featuring a fabulously wealthy elephant and his loathsome foe Beaver Hateman command a cult following), is that publisher Jonathan Cape finds the series “classist”. Uncle is unashamed about his wicked wealth, and that, apparently, makes for uncomfortable reading in our egalitarian times.
I don't know if that is the real reason, but the continued obscurity of this wonderful series of children's books does need an explanation. And I own copies of two of those three later books, but they are battered ex-library copies and I doubt very much if they would fetch £1000 apiece.

As we are talking of Uncle, this is a good opportunity to salute the Revd J.P. Martin for his foresight in anticipating the Murdoch press in the shape of the character Hitmouse:
Hitmouse, a wretched little person who is the chief reporter on the Badfort News and who lives in a Nissen hut outside Badfort, was sitting by Hateman. He was bristling, as usual, with skewers and writing in a hating book.
That is from Uncle Cleans Up. In Uncle and his Detective we learn that he makes notes for the Badfort News in his hating books and never travels without it.

The parallels with the Murdoch press are uncanny.

Mind you, the tabloid press is not without its attractions. And Uncle, while unquestionably good, can be terribly pompous. If I lived in his castle of Homeward, I think I would read the Badfort News, despite the terrible things it says about him.

And, moving with the times, it seems you can read the Badfort Times online for yourself.

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