inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #26 of 82: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 21 Feb 09 14:02
    
also a fan of the original order.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #27 of 82: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 21 Feb 09 14:02
    
Laura, what do you think of the movies?
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #28 of 82: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 21 Feb 09 15:03
    
I remember having a similar betrayal reaction in high school to a poem
about an astronaut assigned in English class.  I was a big fan of the
space program, and when someone said that the astronaut was a metaphor
for something considerably less interesting to me (like alienation or
something like that) I was rather upset by it.  It's like, for once
here's a poem about something I'm interested in, and now you're telling
me it's not actually about that at all.

It would have helped to know that it's not either-or, and it's
possible to write about multiple things at the same time, and certainly
that can be said of Narnia.

If you're not reading for the Christian metaphor then parts of the
story will seem weaker when they can only be understood as metaphor. 
Similarly for neo-platonism: it's been a long time since I read these
books, but I vaguely remember being fairly mystified by the "further up
and further in" thing.

Perhaps C.S. Lewis was doing his best work when he was most successful
at hiding what he was doing?
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #29 of 82: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sat 21 Feb 09 15:52
    
Metaphor is in the old tradition of inventing a hidden meaning for a
text -also think of parables as a teaching tool
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #30 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Sat 21 Feb 09 17:20
    
Lewis and Tolkien subscribed to an idea first formulated by Owen
Barfield about poetic metaphor being the remnant of an early and
different way of understanding the stories and motifs that they called
"myths." The powerful response we have to them, they felt, was like
having the memory of that understanding (but only the memory of it, a
shadow of the actual thing) briefly returned.

Sharon (I remember you from back when I was a Well frequenter!), I am
not a fan of the movies. The first one was the better of the two, but
both felt entirely alien to my impression of Narnia, which was so
fundamentally shaped by Pauline Baynes' illustrations. This was
different from the effect of the Peter Jackson LOTR films, partly
because I didn't have such a well-developed visual image of
Middle-earth. Now, when I think of the various images in that story, I
see stuff from the Jackson films, which is fine by me. I loved those
movies.

There were some other problems with the films. The first one showed
the finger prints of contemporary "family values" ideology in the form
of a lot of inserted remarks about how important family is to the
various characters. People tend to fixate on the fact that the Pevensie
siblings have been sent out of London because of the bombings and
treat this separation from their mother and father as a trauma, but
really it was just a narrative pretext by which Lewis got them away
from their parents. The children never mention their parents or seem to
miss them at all in the books. In fact, when given the opportunity to
stay in Narnia as kings and queens, they basically desert their parents
for what must be over a decade. I can just imagine the scriptwriters
trying to make sense of that!

The second film was more of a departure. It's mostly a lot of battle
scenes, and Caspian is made into at 19-year-old Spaniard who smooches
Susan at the end! If Lewis weren't already dead, that alone would
probably have killed him.

The two Narnia films so far have been visual extremely derivative of
the Jackson films -- a really bad idea, since Narnia is not a vast,
raw, majestic landscape like Middle-earth, but a more intimate and
fanciful place. The next film, which was off for a little while, but
apparently now back on again, is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which
is set during a sea journey. This book is, in general, the favorite of
most readers, and my personal favorite. If somebody a little more
original designs it, it might be OK -- I can't see how it could be made
to look like the LOTR films -- but my hopes are not high.

Some of the actors are good, especially the girl who plays Lucy. All
the Pevensies are well played, actually, with the exception of Susan.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #31 of 82: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 21 Feb 09 20:43
    
I come late to this discussion. I am on a short vacation in Florida
and have not had time to be on the WELL till now.

When I was a student teacher in a fourth grade, my master teacher read
LWW as the first read-aloud book of the year. I would have been
content to leave it at that, and have the kids find the rest of the
series on their own. Instead she wanted me to continue reading aloud
PC, which I did. It makes for a much duller read aloud. That long slog
through the forest when nothing much happens, etc. It was surprisingly
excrutiating.

I am also believer in the original order. I also have a soft spot in
my heart for Silver Chair. I didnt realize till reading your book,
Laura, that I had somehow assumed that the White Witch and the Lady of
the Green Kirtle were one and the same person. When you mention the two
characters, as distinctly two people, I was jarred.  Funny, I hadn't
realized it till then.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #32 of 82: David Albert (aslan) Sat 21 Feb 09 20:59
    
I thought of the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle as
cousins.

What about the BBC/Wonderworks teleplays of the Narnia books?  Anyone
else see those?  I thought they were remarkably faithful to the
original books, but it has been about 15 years since I last saw them so
I could be misremembering.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #33 of 82: Daniel (dfowlkes) Sun 22 Feb 09 10:42
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #34 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Sun 22 Feb 09 19:17
    
At the end of The Silver Chair, a dwarf says that the Green Witch was
"one of the same kind" as the White one. That doesn't actually jibe
with Jadis' back story in Magician's Nephew, but the Chronicles have
LOTS of continuity problems of that kind. Lewis kept saying he'd go
back and clean them up for a definitive edition but, predictably, never
around to it. So your impression that they're related is not
unfounded, Julie. 
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #35 of 82: David Albert (aslan) Mon 23 Feb 09 07:03
    
Although "one of the same kind" can mean a lot of different things.  I
don't see it as inconsistent.

Nobody else saw the Wonderworks Narnia series?  They should re-release
it.  It was low on special effects but long on charm.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #36 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 23 Feb 09 11:22
    
Never heard of it, say more!

(By the way, I also loved Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons"
with the parent-free world.  A lot of English kids books feature children
with sweeping freedom from parents and teachers, now that I think about  
it. 

"Five Children and It" was another favorite that I seem to remember as 
being all about the kids and their odd mythical pal.

That's part of what makes such books so compelling.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #37 of 82: David Albert (aslan) Mon 23 Feb 09 15:54
    
Yes, and is one of the things Laura mentions explicitly in the book.

Laura, late in the book you make a distinction that I'd never heard
before between novels and romances, with a romance defined, if I
understood it, as more of a "quest" or "journey" while a novel is --
something else.  Furthermore you indicate that magic always goes along
with romances, not with novels.  Does that dichotomy always hold up? 
Just thinking of Five Children and It, here, as one example:  how is
that a romance rather than a novel?  Or is it something else entirely? 
It certainly has magic in it!
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #38 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 23 Feb 09 23:12
    
(a quick aside -- after posting and then getting back to the book, I
discovered for the second time that a comment I thought of was
mentioned by Laura a few pages later. This is uncanny. Mentioning "Five
Children and It" here from my memory, not having thought of that book
in years, then seeing that Laura mentioned it a few pages later from
where I'd read was the most startling. I am going to shut up and finish
the book next.)
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #39 of 82: David Albert (aslan) Tue 24 Feb 09 04:58
    
Yes, that was definitely the most uncanny part of reading this book. 
I would normally think that a book could have many different possible
logical orderings or progressions of thought, but maybe in this case
there is one that is more clearly the "correct" progression (for those
of us who read the same books and share the same memories of reading)
and thus each thought leads us logically to the next one.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #40 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Tue 24 Feb 09 08:11
    
David, I structured the book according to the flow of my own
associations, and it may be that other people's minds run in similar
channels. I know it may seem meandering (some have said as much!), but
to me the order by which subjects are introduced seems only natural. I
guess I was more right than I realized!

Gail, Nesbit was a major influence on the Narnia books, so it's not
actually that startling that you'd be reminded of her and I'd bring it
up. My website features a few passages that were cut from the final
manuscript, including one on Nesbit that you might find interesting.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #41 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Tue 24 Feb 09 08:25
    
As for the romance/novel distinction, it is a reasonably flexible one.
The romance is an earlier genre, dating back to the Middle Ages. It
comes in several variations. Sometimes it is a story of courtship
(hence its connection to the contemporary genre fiction), often it is
also a tale of adventure. The stories associated with King Arthur are
probably the best-known romances. Romances were often, but not always,
written in verse.

Nowadays, we tend to think of any long narrative as a "novel," and
this isn't technically untrue. However, the novel in its quintessential
form tends to be realistic, written in prose. A classic novel: Pride
and Prejudice: also about courtship, but written as a realistic
depiction of early 19C life and manners. The novel has a somewhat
complicated relationship toward realism, however. You could also say
that Austen's novels *aren't* that realistic in their happy endings,
etc. Some novelists, like Woolf and Joyce, aimed for an even more
realistic depiction of consciousness. Others -- Garcia Marquez, for
example -- incorporated magical events into an otherwise novelistic
narrative. The more classical approach to the novel, as articulated by
the critic James Wood, say, is that it should strive toward realism or
the impression of realism.

Literary genres evolve over time, with a lot of hybrids scattering
throughout. When Tolkien wrote LOTR, he was consciously trying to write
a "prose romance" (after the now-obscure works of WIlliam Morris) and
vehemently denied that the books were novels at all. I think he and
Lewis perceived that readers/audiences have a need for some of the
things that romance offers, even if literary people viewed the genre as
obsolete. A lot of what science fiction, fantasy and comic books do is
essentially romance: marvelous adventures, magical objects,
quasi-allegorical motifs, quests. Romance adapts more easily than the
novel because it's not as dependent on a specific form, I would say,
but I think that could be debated.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #42 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Tue 24 Feb 09 08:42
    
Anyway, this point, while it might seem very "Inside Baseball: Lit
Crit Division," is really helpful in pointing out how a book like LOTR
fits into a culture. LOTR is not a good novel, to judge by the
conventions of the novel. The dialog is stilted, the characters don't
have much psychological shading or depth, the social world depicted is
preposterous. To people for whom the novel is the only and ultimate
standard of literary worth, it's bad. Sometimes Tolkien buffs try to
argue that LOTR does, in fact, offer those qualities, but they in turn
often have a pretty weak grasp of the characteristics of the novel and
they don't convince anyone but themselves.

On the other hand, if you approach LOTR as a romance rather than a
novel, those objections fall away. No one complains that, say, the
characters in The Faerie Queene are insufficiently three-dimensional,
for example. No one complains about the mythological elements in The
Odyssey being silly. It's a different kind of story. The weakness lies
in a reader unable to adapt to or accommodate different kinds of
stories. And, incidentally, a Tolkien buff who can't appreciate, say,
Alice Munro, is just as lacking. I don't like to get into those turf
battles where the genre readers sneer at the literary books and vice
versa. I like both kinds of books.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #43 of 82: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Tue 24 Feb 09 09:09
    
Re Order: It took me forever to find a set in the "right" order to
give to my kid. I think I had to order an older edition from a used
bookseller. To me the stories make no dramatic sense if read in
outside-world order. The Magician's Nephew is all about filling in
backstory.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #44 of 82: . (wickett) Wed 25 Feb 09 02:17
    

Both Nesbit and Lewis wrote as if adults did not exist, except as 
convenient hook on which to hang the story, and, therefore, the 
children were free to adventure and improve.  Blotting out adults is a 
wonderful device for building both autonomy and imagination.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #45 of 82: David Albert (aslan) Wed 25 Feb 09 03:53
    
And it is from them, primarily, that I built my ideal of childhood
life.  

Would that would could still give our kids a hamper of food at 8:00 AM
and send them off adventuring until bedtime, secure in the knowledge
that the worst that could happen to them is that they might accept a
stupid wish from a psammead or spend 30 years as kings and queens in an
alternate universe.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #46 of 82: . (wickett) Wed 25 Feb 09 04:44
    

That *was* my childhood!  I spent much of it curled up in the embrace of an
oak tree, reading.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #47 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 25 Feb 09 14:53
    
Me too. In the coastal live oak forest of a seemingly kinder California.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #48 of 82: . (wickett) Wed 25 Feb 09 15:50
    

Much kinder and more civilized, Gail.  I was in Santa Cruz Mountains.
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #49 of 82: Daniel (dfowlkes) Thu 26 Feb 09 03:51
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.347 : Laura Miller, The Magician's Book
permalink #50 of 82: Laura Miller (lauram) Thu 26 Feb 09 05:44
    
I'd be leery of that interpretation, Dan, as you could find few more
enthusiastic meat-eaters than Lewis and his cronies.
  

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