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21796Re: [mythsoc] Re: A new novel about Tolkien

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  • Darrell A. Martin
    Jan 13, 2011
      On 1/13/2011 8:41 AM, davise@... wrote:
      > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...>
      > wrote:
      >> I am predisposed to an intense dislike for fiction about real
      >> persons. That applies to Vercingetorix, George Washington, Richard
      >> the Lionhearted, John F. Kennedy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Among
      >> others.
      > I'm not sure I agree. "Ivanhoe" is fun. Thornton Wilder's "The Ides
      > of March" is very worth reading. Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" about
      > Thomas Cromwell, got rave reviews; I haven't read it yet, but it's on
      > my list. Detective novels often do it well; for instance the Steven
      > Saylor series about Gordianus, set in the Rome of Caesar, Cicero etc.
      > In children's literature, Robert Lawson's "Ben and Me" (about Ben
      > Franklin) and "Mr. Revere and I" are great. Of course, there is a lot
      > of lousy fiction of this kind; but there is a lot of lousy fiction of
      > any kind.
      > Certainly a large fraction of the great plays, from Shakespeare on
      > down, deal with real historical people.
      > -- Ernie


      De gustibus non est disputandum. Further, being predisposed doesn't mean
      I can't be convinced in some cases. A historical character in fiction,
      doing things we think he actually did, is not as big a deal to me as
      that same character doing things we think never happened.

      My second paragraph, unquoted, was perhaps more to the point. The issue
      for me is not the *mixing* of fact and fiction, but the *blurring* of
      the difference between the two.

      (I might note in passing that the theater leaves me with the impression
      that even in historical settings, the realism is right there with, say,
      the Asterix comics. But that's me.)

      I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior high
      English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I thought
      Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is not Scott's
      fault, but I still resented finding out much later that my views on 12th
      Century England were based on literary invention.

      "Ben and Me" and its ilk find me on the fence. Even most children are
      immune from thinking that Mr. Franklin had intelligent conversations
      with a mouse. BUT ... does that create confusion about the historical
      parts of the story? Perhaps they are not real either.

      The same sorts of questions might be asked about Narnia. I do not know
      anyone who is confused enough to think that Aslan is *actually* the
      Second Person of the Trinity incarnate in another world. But how much
      does the Beast Fable setting suggest, even subtly, that just as the
      distinction in Narnia between humans and animals is fundamentally
      altered from reality; Lewis also not only adapted, but altered, Narnia's
      ethics and philosophy? Perhaps the rules of proper thinking and behavior
      there are nice -- for talking animals.

      There is a lot of gray between fiction and reality. In part that is
      because reality is often less than crystal clear! When an artist does a
      particularly good job of putting fiction into a historical setting, the
      gray area gets bigger. I am uncomfortable when it becomes possible to
      "cross the line" without noticing.

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