Blart 2: The Boy You’ve Probably Never Heard of and the Book You Probably Shouldn’t Read
‘The problem was Blart.'Dominic Barker, Blart 2: The Boy Who Was Wanted Dead or Alive – or Both (London: Bloomsbury, 2007) p.219.Dominic Barker, ‘Blart 2‘
Ah, Blart. When Alex offered to send you to me but a few weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined what I was getting myself into. In hindsight, when a friend pops up to tell you about a forgotten book from their childhood, you shouldn’t expect anything other than a thoroughly horrible time, but I happily agreed to read Blart. So unprepared was I for the experience of Blart that I immediately forgot all about him, and carried on reading Kim for an essay (more on that another time because, oh boy).
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I awoke to the postman frantically knocking one early 8am, and, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, opened the door to have a small parcel thrust into my hands. The postman said nothing, turning on his heels as if he knew what foul thing he had just bestowed upon me, and almost ran from the building.
Yes. I’d been Blarted.This is something Alex said to me in a text, alongside the concept of ‘un-Blarting’. I feel like I must make it clear that the Curse of Blart can be traced back to Alex. The curse of Blart was now upon me, and even then I knew the only method of escape was to read Blart and then pass him on to someone as unassuming as myself (like in The Ring, you know?) And so, with the weight of Blart upon me, I read, and I have many things to tell you about my experience.
After Jake Paul’s book, Blart 2: The Boy Who Was Wanted Dead or Alive – or Both, was a natural follow-up for 2021: Year of Cursed Literature. In a way, one could say that Blart 2 is a spiritual successor to You Gotta Want It. I joke, of course, but both books exist in a strange literary space – being aimed at younger audiences, and being undeniably horrid – and pairing the two really highlights a shift in young adult content over the past decade or so. Blart 2 (2007) is a book I cannot imagine being published for its intended audience in 2021, or perhaps at all. Blart himself is 15 in the novel, and I struggle to imagine that 15 year olds are reading Blart 2 anymore. But Jay, I hear you ask, how can we possibly reflect on that statement without knowing anything about Blart 2? Allow me to explain:
Blart 2 is a book about a pig boy named Blart who is wanted dead or alive, or both. There is a scene where he goes by the alias ‘Blob the Pig Boy,’The moment that Blart utters this phrase I ran from the bedroom to the living room to interrupt Alex to scream about it. This is of course a different Alex to the one that gave me the Curse of Blart. … Continue reading but for the purposes of this review I’ll just call him Blart. Now, like Alex before me, I had not read Blart 1, and so finding out that this book was very much based on previous knowledge of the Blart Literary Universe worried me. Luckily this knowledge is told to us in Blart 2, and is not particularly complex. In Blart 1, Blart (pig boy) and Capablanca (old wizard) go on a quest to defeat Zoltab (evil bald man) with the help of Beo (silly barbarian) and Lois (Princess girl). They do it, and they all go home. Nice.
Well, until Capablanca shows up in Blart 2 and explains that they are now all wanted dead or alive (or both!) because of a recently discovered prophecy that definitely doesn’t only exist to justify a second Blart. Turns out, when they took Zoltab from his evil castle and put him in fantasy jail, they actually saved his life – for you see, his castle was destined to blow up, and now of course they all look like they turned up to save Zoltab. You can see how this tricky situation has arisen. So, the gang must reunite once more, to clear their names and keep their lives, and here we are: Blart 2.
Now, one cannot read a book titled Blart 2 without wondering: what is it about the eponymous Blart that gives him the power to be the protagonist of this book? I’ll tell you: there isn’t anything. He’s horrible. After having saved the world in Blart 1, Blart did what any reasonable 15-year-old hero would do: he purchased 98 pigs. However, Blart is nearly destitute, as he’s been gambling away his pigs in games of Muggins with Uther Slywort, the only man in the village who can stand talking to Blart, and he’s definitely not a villain. The book does a great job of making it clear that everyone hates Blart, and I can see why. He’s lost 98 pigs playing fantasy snap. And of course, when given the chance to win it all back, Blart gambles away his own life and loses. He is now in the service of Uther, but then Capablanca shows up and Quest: The Sequel begins (after a brief side-plot in which Uther and Blart are turned into pigs).
Actually, this novel is almost entirely side-plots (and pigs). Alex described it as ‘reading someone’s D&D campaign,’Alex, to me, via telephone conversation, about a week and a half ago. except you should probably just play yourself if that’s what you’re craving. At least then you can carry an overarching story, like, for instance, having to clear your name by finding that evil guy you left inside a mountain, and have it become relevant before page 308 of a 352 page book. After around page 200, the continuous zipping from side-plot to side-plot with no real feeling that you’re getting anywhere becomes very draining. Side-plots in Blart 2 include, but are not limited to: trying to find a woman that can shout at a horse, stealing an imp from a man infamous for killing his wives, infiltrating a circus to steal the aforementioned horse, and Uther feeding the entire party large quantities of lard (rancid). How one man can carry around so much lard is beyond me, but Uther does have the unique quality of being the only character that is good in this entire book, so honestly he can have as much lard as he wants. In fact, the best character in Blart 2 was, without a doubt, the ghost of Alex that guided me through it, through his frequent and hysterical annotations. I do hope you get to see them, one day, when Blart 2 is delivered to you (yes, you).
Look, I get it – this book wasn’t written for the adult Jay that is reading it, and it was written nearly 15 years ago. But Blart 2 feels like it came from another reality, because it feels so dated in a way I can’t really describe. The biggest example of this is the absolutely vapid stereotyping of the one main female character, Princess Lois, but I’m going to talk about her in-depth another time, because she represents a larger female character archetype that I want to pick apart.
And so, this is where my review of Blart 2 comes to an end. Or, at least it originally did, but while I was researching for this post I came across something I just have to share. So, if I may, I’d love to borrow some more of your time to talk about the author of the Blart Literary Universe – Dominic Barker.
I cannot find any evidence of this man existing post-2013, and what does exist in relation to him is a hoot.
His Wikipedia pagehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_Barker [accessed 01/02/21]. is fairly barren, but his Waterstones bibliographyhttps://www.waterstones.com/author/dominic-barker/174347 [accessed 03/01/21]. shows that he was writing post-Blart, up until 2012. My favourite author bio came from the site ‘lovereading4kids.co.uk’, who opened with:
‘Dominic Barker was born in 1966 in Southport only months after England won the World Cup.’https://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/author/1342/Dominic-Barker.html [accessed 01/02/21].lovereading4kids.co.uk
I’m not sure whether this exists to contextualise 1966 for children, or to suggest that Dominic Barker’s birth was a real morale boost for the England football team.
In the hopes of finding out more, I took to Twitter, because that’s where authors tend to hang out. But Dominic Barker hasn’t tweeted since 2013, and his BigBarcelonaBloghttp://bigbarcelonablog.blogspot.com/ [accessed 01/02/21]. hasn’t been updated either. Then, when I was visiting Dominic’s BigBarcelonaBlog to get the reference for this review, I stumbled across his other bloghttp://dominicbarker.blogspot.com/ [access 01/02/21]. (also inactive since 2013) where he talks about TV, film, books, and football. What is interesting here is the sheer range of content that Dominic has chosen to talk about: The Hunger Games (book), Django Unchained (film), and some reality show episode breakdowns. I don’t really know what to make of all this. I still don’t think I understand who Dominic Barker is.
So, what started out as a lighthearted and quite silly Blarting adventure has led to a complete mystery. Did Dominic Barker ever truly exist? Is Dominic Barker perhaps a pseudonym, or a robot man, or did he simply move to Barcelona and become at one with the landscape, leaving Blart behind? We may never know, dear readers.*
*Dominic Barker did publish Blart 3 in 2008 but honestly I cannot do it please don’t make me.
|↑1||Dominic Barker, Blart 2: The Boy Who Was Wanted Dead or Alive – or Both (London: Bloomsbury, 2007) p.219.|
|↑2||This is something Alex said to me in a text, alongside the concept of ‘un-Blarting’. I feel like I must make it clear that the Curse of Blart can be traced back to Alex.|
|↑3||The moment that Blart utters this phrase I ran from the bedroom to the living room to interrupt Alex to scream about it. This is of course a different Alex to the one that gave me the Curse of Blart. (p.87).|
|↑4||Alex, to me, via telephone conversation, about a week and a half ago.|
|↑5||https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_Barker [accessed 01/02/21].|
|↑6||https://www.waterstones.com/author/dominic-barker/174347 [accessed 03/01/21].|
|↑7||https://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/author/1342/Dominic-Barker.html [accessed 01/02/21].|
|↑8||http://bigbarcelonablog.blogspot.com/ [accessed 01/02/21].|
|↑9||http://dominicbarker.blogspot.com/ [access 01/02/21].|
|↑10||http://www.dominicbarker.com/ [tried to access multiple times between 20/01/21 – 11/02/21].|