From a distance–a murky haze. Closer–a cloud of smog, fumes…other forms of rot–particularly that of vegetation. Or blight may be a withering, slow destruction of a city or town or home, often from within. In recent times, the concept of blight brings to mind deterioration of dwelling sites, towns, cities or–at its worst–of the human spirit. For author H.F. Clarke, seeing photographs of a blighted, once elegant city square was the first nugget of a story idea.
According to Clarke, three concepts surrounding blight inspired Whimsy. “At least three,” he says. “Blight of a once uniquely attractive city region, like that famously in Detroit. That was the most dramatic and striking. But another blight occurred to me: the slow inevitable failure of primary education. And, finally the loss of innocence–a blight of the soul and spirit.”
In The Door Into Whimsy, Tyler sees a distant haze of smog and decay and he can discern the throbbing harsh clamor arising from this somehow threatening metropolitan ruckus. “It is a blight that seems to be growing larger each day,” says H.F. Clarke, “as it rolls along in the direction of Careful Creek.” In contrast, we see later that Careful Creek is a sedate neighborhood formed of elegant homes that are so individualized, they each have their unique names and history. But the distant blight is approaching, as if it were a living thing determined to smother Tyler’s neighborhood.
But there are other blights in Tyler’s life, some not as dramatic, but insidious and ultimately more damaging than decaying buildings. “There are the blights of a stunted education,” Clarke adds, “like the unwillingness–or lack of opportunity–to learn apparently outmoded forms of communication, like reading and writing in cursive, or telling the time from an old-fashioned timepiece.”
As Tyler learns, there are also blighted attitudes–ways of looking at things–that can be a threat. These run the deepest and cause the most harm.